Christian-based, family friendly movies keep surprising the so-called experts in Hollywood with their success at the box office.
The latest example of this occurrence is the faith-based film I Can Only Imagine. This film, based on the real-life experiences of Christian band MercyMe lead singer Bart Millard, was a surprise success in the box office during its opening weekend.
The film tells the story behind the creation of the song “I Can Only Imagine” as one might expect, but it goes so much further than that. It tells the heart-wrenching, sometimes hard-to-watch story of Millard’s life. It details how an abusive father and a mother who abandoned him shaped the man he eventually became. However, throughout, the narrative of God’s love and faith is ever present.
I Can Only Imagine doubled expectations and raked in an impressive $17.1 million during its opening weekend. To put this number in perspective, consider the fact that it only played in 1,629 theaters. Tomb Raider opened in twice as many theaters, but only beat the Christian film by around $6 million in revenue. In addition, the action flick enjoyed a hefty $94 million budget, while I Can Only Imagine got by with a comparably tiny budget of $7 million.
The Christian movie also beat out Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time, a movie which should have included Christian elements but removed them for the sake of inclusion. The book on which the movie of the same name is based had many Christian themes. In fact, author Madeline L’Engle was a Christian herself, and used the book to communicate the importance of her faith.
“If I’ve ever written a book that says what I feel about God and the universe, this is it,” she once said of her work. “This is my psalm of praise to life, my stand for life against death.”
The writers of the movie adaptation decided that the instances where L’Engle focused on the magnificence of God, shared scripture and the like in the book, were irrelevant in today’s modern, inclusive, society. As a result, they made the decision to ditch the Christian elements and instead shift the movie more towards a new age belief system where all is good and people can learn to be “one with the universe.”
“I think there are a lot of elements of what [L’Engle] wrote that we have progressed as a society and we can move on to the other elements,” screenwriter Jennifer Lee explained about the changes. “That’s what inclusiveness is to me in this film, it is really looking at all of us have a role to play in this no matter where we come from or what we look like.”
Not only does the movie version of the faith-filled book not include the Christian elements that were in the book, it outright excludes the Christian faith.
“At one point, one character mentions every spiritual, religious and historical icon, but seems to exclude Jesus Christ, as if Christianity was the one thing they didn’t want to include,” a Movieguide review said of the film. “By comparison, Jesus is an iconic figure in the book.”
Although the writers and director of A Wrinkle in Time seemed to exclude Christians, Hollywood would be wise to start including them. The success of the faith-based film I Can Only Imagine is the perfect example of why this is true.
This film is nothing if not faith-based as it weaves the tale of Bart’s story. It shares how he came to faith in Christ, and even how others around him came to believe in the one true God.
This success at the box office proves a very real truth to Hollywood, that families want to spend their hard earned money to view inspirational, family-friendly, even Christian films. They don’t want their faith to be ignored, excluded or labeled as divisive. The comparison between two movies that each took a very different approach towards the Christian faith proves this to be true.
~ 1776 Christian