The faith-based film "I Can Only Imagine" brought in $17.1 million at the domestic box office during its opening weekend, going far beyond early expectations and ranking third, behind "Tomb Raider" and "Black Panther."
Based on the true-story of Christian artist Bart Millard's life, the family drama opened at 1,629 locations in the United States and received an A+ CinemaScore with an audience that was 67 percent female and 80 percent over 35.
This is the distributor Roadside Attractions' highest grossing opening ever. "We felt that the film's inspiring story of hope and forgiveness made for a very compelling collaboration," Roadside's co-president, Howard Cohen, said in a statement.
The weekend estimates include $6.2 million for Friday; $5.9 million on Saturday; and a projected $4.8 million for Monday. "I Can Only Imagine" has become the top faith-based movie of 2018.
About a decade ago, MercyMe's crossover hit song, "I Can Only Imagine," sold over 2 million digital downloads and was certified almost 3x platinum. Now, Millard's life story showcased in the Erwin Brothers movie is hitting a high note.
Lee Strobel, the atheist-turned-Christian author behind the "The Case for Christ" book and movie, urged Christians to support the film. "Let's get out to theaters and support the new faith-based movie 'I Can Only Imagine,' which is stunning Hollywood with its strong opening box office performance. It's an excellent movie and we need to get behind solid Christian films if we expect more of them in the future," he wrote on Twitter.
Journalist and blogger Michael Foust noted that the film beat "A Wrinkle in Time" and "Love, Simon."
"I Can Only Imagine finishes weekend No. 1 in theater average, No. 3 overall according to estimates. Beats Disney's 'Wrinkle In Time.' Wow," Foust tweeted.
Author Julie Roys wrote, "… So glad to see a solid Christian movie perform so well!"
Cohen expects the movie to continue to "play solidly" through the Easter holiday and well into spring.
Nearly eight years ago, Millard was approached about making a movie of his story after he shared his testimony during a concert. "It's the most random, surreal thing that happened," Millard recently told The Christian Post of having his life made into a film. "We thought they were crazy, but we were like, 'OK, whatever.'"
His story illustrates that "nobody is ever too far from God's love — or too far from an eternal home in Heaven," according to the movie's summary.
Andrew Erwin, co-director and co-editor, said, "God's hand has been on this song and on this story from the beginning. We are delighted to see a story about forgiveness and redemption connect with so many people. We are humbled for the privilege of telling Bart's story."
Jon Erwin, co-director and co-screenwriter, added, "We are amazed and humbled to see the response to this story. We set out to honor Bart Millard's journey and the band's amazing, life-changing song. It's our privilege to watch this film engage in such a powerful way with the audience."