The braintrust behind the pro-life movie Unplanned say they are ecstatic with the attendance at the 49 Canadian screens that showed the movie over the July 12-14 weekend.
The film raked in gross ticket receipts of $345,000 over the weekend, averaging more than $7,000 per screen, with many venues selling out.
“That’s a tremendous draw and was actually the second highest per-screen average for any film, anywhere in North America (last weekend),” Chuck Konzelman, writer/director of Unplanned, told The Catholic Register in an email.
Konzelman believes the numbers could have been higher had some of the multiplexes that showed the film not underestimate the demand for Unplanned.
“The average would have been higher if some of the multiplexes, which weren’t sure how much demand there would be, hadn’t booked us into their smallest auditoriums,” he said. “Many of the shows on Friday and Saturday night were 100 per cent sold out and potential audience members got turned away.”
The film tells the story of Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director who had a change of heart after witnessing an abortion via an ultrasound. She is now a strong proponent of life through a ministry called And Then There Were None, which is designed to help abortion clinic workers transition out of the industry. She plans to open a Canadian chapter of the ministry.
Unplanned has struck a nerve over its subject matter, not a surprise when the emotional issue of abortion is involved. The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada released a statement in late June calling the film “a dangerous piece of anti-abortion propaganda.” Others have claimed it might incite violence against abortion providers. Even federal politicians have waded into the controversy, with Melanie Joly, Minister of Tourism, Official Langugatges and La Francophonie, calling out Vince Guzzo, owner of Quebec-based theatre chain Cinema Guzzo for showing Unplanned in its theatres and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford, condemning the screening via Twitter.
Konzelman said these claims and others that the film deliberately courted controversy were simply untrue, and the numbers show there is an audience for this kind of message.
“Despite being vilified by the mainstream press — and Canada was particularly rough on this count — there were audiences in both the U.S. and Canada eager to see this film.
Though the coverage was tough, the controversy did help create a buzz around the film.
“It helped to create a level of awareness among people at large that we couldn’t have achieved with our modest advertising budget,” he said.
Unplanned continues its one-week run in 49 Canadian theatres through July 19. There’s no word yet if it will extend beyond that.