'Unplanned' has great first weekend opening in Canada; directors thrilled amid opposition
Amid considerable pushback, the pro-life motion picture "Unplanned" had a successful first weekend in Canada, averaging approximately $7,000 per screen.
The film's directors say they are encouraged by the showing though the opposition has been significant and multi-faceted.
According to tribute.ca, for the weekend of July 12, the movie — which tells the story of former Planned Parenthood clinic director turned pro-life advocate Abby Johnson — came in at number 18 in the top 20 movies in North America.
The film was released in the United States in March but it faced obstacles in being shown in Canada. It became available in dozens of theaters in Canada beginning Friday, averaging of $7,041 per screen.
Directors Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman told The Christian Post in a Monday interview that they've made approximately $352,000, which they consider a great number given the hurdles they have faced in Canada.
"We were suppressed at every turn," Solomon said of the obstacles. "The left and the pro-choice side in the government denounced the movie without seeing it."
Throughout the distribution process since the film's release when the directors faced hostility during media interviews and elsewhere, they often asked those, including film critics who were quick to say how horrible the film is or that it constitutes "propaganda," if they have watched the movie. But they all said no, the directors noted.
Konzelman said that the Canadian mainstream press has been particularly remiss "because there have been probably two dozen articles and most of them go like this: 'Controversial anti-abortion film coming to Canada' [where] they talk about the controversy, then they get a quote from a pro-choice organization member, and they say that there's a limited number of theaters showing it, and then they talk about the death threats to the theater owners."
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's chief of staff posted on Twitter her distaste for the movie. Her account says her tweets are her personal views.
"But I respectfully submit that if Donald Trump's chief of staff Twittered all weekend about something and they still had a job on Tuesday, it's the opinion of the administration," Konzelman said.
Actress Ashley Bratcher, who portrays Abby Johnson in "Unplanned," noted Sunday that the numbers are "astounding." Such figures put the movie in the top five Indie film opening weekends in 2019.
According to Box Office Mojo, the total gross for the film is presently $18.46 million.
While the film has faced hurdles to be shown in Canada, the movie's promoters strategized to encourage supporters to see it while working to satisfy the requirements of the national theater distribution system, according to CBC Saturday.
"Unplanned" was shown to an audience of 2,800 in Edmonton, Alberta, in May. The chain that owns the vast majority of the theaters in Canada, Cineplex, said through a spokesperson at the time that they had not signed on to show the film because it had not yet secured a Canadian distributor.
Thousand of supporters of the film subsequently signed a petition, threatening to boycott the chain if they refused to allow "Unplanned" to be screened. Cineplex ultimately opened its doors to the film after B.J. McKelvie, a New Brunswick pastor who has a movie booking company on the side, became the booking agent.
Solomon and Konzelman were guests at the White House summit on social media censorship of conservative-leaning and pro-life voices last week. They previously testified before the Senate on how big tech companies like Twitter have suppressed their movie.
Solomon believes that the considerable effort to keep the film out of Canada reveals the spiritual warfare over the issue.
"It's almost demonic in a way in that they're trying to suppress a whole nation from seeing a movie. And our question to them is this: What are you so afraid of?" he said.
The directors are planning to head to England with the movie soon.
The tactics employed were "straight out of the fascism 101 playbook. If we look back in time, let's remember that the third Reich blamed Poland for starting World War II," Konzelman added.
Despite the pushback, the filmmakers reiterated their gratitude for the good numbers, noting that in the movie industry what matters is not the box office total but the per-screen average. Because of this, every independent movie theater owner looking at that number is trying to figure out if they can work it into their schedule for next weekend, they noted.
"Had we been in 1,000 or 1,500 screens in Canada we would have had a 4 or 5 million dollar open in Canada," which is unheard of, Solomon said.
"This was an awesome display of not only what the Lord is doing, but of the movie itself, the power of the movie."
The Wall Street Journal noted Monday that, due in part to the movie, the American-style abortion debate is now ramping up to Canada and is shaping the coming elections and may jeopardize Trudeau's chances of being re-elected.
Solomon told CP that they continue to receive messages from thousands of people that they've been saved and hearing from abortion clinic staffers that they want to leave the industry.
"All kinds of amazing things are occurring, just from a movie," he said.