“Unplanned” Opens This Weekend. Can It Give PureFlix a Hit?

2018 could be considered a tough year for the faith-based production and distribution company PureFlix.

After seeing great success with the faith-based dramas God’s Not Dead and the sequel God’s Not Dead 2 as well as other films such as The Case for Christ, the company saw two of their most-promoted films seemingly underperform last year.

The bible epic Samson grossed just over $6 million, not unlikely due to opening the same weekend as Black Panther. And the third chapter of the God’s Not Dead series, A Light in Darkness, also made just over $6 million at the domestic box office.

Samson was reported to have been the most expensive film the studio had ever done, so likely much over the previous records of $6 million. And although A Light in Darkness was the best reviewed film of the series, it grossed significantly less than the $60 million of the first installment or the $20 million of the second, as well as the $17 million of 2017’s The Case for Christ.

It didn’t look extraordinarily well at the sister company QualityFlix either: the Dinesh D’Souza film Death of a Nation grossed less than the previous two documentaries made by the right-wing commentator.

“We are happy with the performance of our movies and will continue to work toward even stronger results and impact. The reality is that not every movie can perform as well as the original ‘God’s Not Dead,” said PureClix CEO Michael Scott.

This weekend, PureFlix will release the abortion drama Unplanned on 1,059 domestic screens.

Based on the book by a former Planned Parenthood employee, the film is has much talked-about in pro-life circles. Conservative figures such as Rep. Allen West, Tucker Carlson, Rep. Bill Flores, Gov. Mike Huckabee and Glenn Beck promoted it and MyPillow CEO Mike Lyndell contributed $1 million to its $6 million budget. (Which eventually earned him a cameo).

MyPillow CEO Mile Lindell cameos in “Unplanned”.

Unplanned follows Abby Johnson, who oversees an abortion at her Planned Parenthood clinic and decides to become a pro-life activist.

Although PureFlix didn’t produce the film, it jumped on as distributor. Unplanned‘s writers, Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman, had previously worked with the studio.

While it may seem as a political rather than purely religious film, it is not being released under the QualityFlix banner the company used for the D’Souza docs.

“The film is not a typical ‘Christian’ film as released by Pure Flix, but Cary and Chuck’s previous success with God’s Not Dead and other films ultimately lead to the decision to use that banner,” says a spokesperson for PureFlix.

Of course, abortion is not merely opposed by American conservatives. As terminating a pregnancy is seen as murder by people around the world and across various political landscapes, it becomes a personal issue of immediate importance for many people of faith. PureFlix will also distribute the film internationally as it did with many of their other dramas.

“We have requests from over 30 different countries already for the film to be released. We plan to take it everywhere possible,” says a spokesperson for the film.

Perhaps the right mix of contemporary debate on late-term abortion and faith-based drama can bring a success for PureFlix.

A potential hurdle is the R-rating from the MPAA. Abby Johnson sent out a letter to parents, strongly underscoring that the rating was not given for nudity or blasphemy but only for two intense scenes showing abortions.

According to a spokesperson, PureFlix seems to be expecting a $2-3 million opening weekend. That would be higher than the one of Samson and about the opening of A Light in Darkness, as well as about half of the film’s production budget.

“Unplanned” is now playing nationwide.

Images: Soli Deo Gloria Releasing / PureFlix

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