Roadside Attractions' "I Can Only Imagine", based on the story of the biggest-selling Christian song of all time, is looking at an estimated $14 million-plus for the weekend from 1,629 locations, far outdoing earlier estimates of $2 million-$8 million.
Lionsgate's March 3 opener "The Shack" was the top Christian film of 2017, with $57 million at the domestic box office. The second weekend for Disney's book adaptation "A Wrinkle in Time" came in fourth with $16.6 million at 3,980 locations. It also reportedly ended up as the top per-site average among all the films released this weekend with $10,476.
The film tells the story of MercyMe's famous hit, "I Can Only Imagine", which was inspired by the death of Millard's father when he was 18 and the complicated relationship they shared when he was growing up.
Budgeted at just $7 million, "I Can Only Imagine" tells the story of Bart Millard, the leader of Christian rock group MercyMe, and his conception of "I Can Only Imagine", the best-selling Christian single of all time.
Cohen said, "I Can Only Imagine" benefited from grass roots support from churches and groups as well as from from MercyMe, who have been helping promote the film on social media.
"We knew that it was going to do well but we never expected a $17 million opening", said Howard Cohen of Roadside Attractions-Lionsgate which produced the film. "We're planning to be on well over 2,000 screens next weekend".
The nation's moviegoers look to be turning out in bigger numbers for a Christian-themed independent film than for the first mainstream teen movie with a gay main character. That's much better than the reviews for many faith-based films.
The cast includes Quaid ("Soul Surfer", "The Day After Tomorrow"), Trace Adkins ("Deepwater Horizon", "Mom's Night Out"), Oscar-winner Cloris Leachman ("Young Frankenstein", "The Croods"), Madeline Carroll ("Swing Vote", "Machine Gun Preacher"), Priscilla Shirer ("War Room") and, in his screen debut, Broadway's J. Michael Finley ("Les Miserables") as Millard.
The Erwin brothers also expressed their gratitude over the film's success.