Graced with a coveted A+ CinemaScore, the controversial anti-abortion drama Unplanned opened to a strong $6.1 million from 1,059 theaters at the U.S. box office despite a relatively modest footprint.
The R-rated film — landing in fifth place — scored the second-biggest start ever for faith-based distributor Pure Flix behind God's Not Dead 2 ($7.6 million). The Christian pic did its biggest business in the Midwest and South.
Generally, theaters in New York City and Los Angeles populate the list of a film's top 20 grossing theaters. In this case, there were none. Instead, the top theater was the AMC Northpark 15 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, followed by cinemas in St. Louis; Detroit; Wichita, Kansas; Temecula in Southern California's Riverside County; Salt Lake City; Orange County, California; Kansas City; Odessa, Texas; and Nashville.
"We are thrilled, gratified and humbled," co-directors Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman said Sunday in a statement. "We are so pleased that the American people have responded with such an enormous outpouring of support at the box office. It humbles us and we look forward to seeing what happens in the weeks ahead."
On Monday, Vice President Mike Pence gave the movie a thumbs-up of his own, tweeting, "So good to see movie theaters across the country showing @UnplannedMoive -- a deeply inspiring new pro-life film based on the best-selling book by @AbbyJohnson. More & more Americans are embracing the sanctity of life because of powerful stories like this one. #Unplanned"
Heading into the weekend, tracking suggested a $3 million debut for Unplanned.
The pic tells the true story of Abby Johnson, who defected from Planned Parenthood to become a pro-life activist after witnessing an abortion at 13 weeks. Unplanned was partially financed by My Pillow founder Michael Lindell, who is a born-again Christian and outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump.
The film's producers, who unsuccessfully fought to overturn the pic's R-rating, note that Unplanned didn't have an easy road to the big screen. A number of TV networks declined to play ads for the movie, while the film's Twitter account was briefly suspended Saturday morning.
On Friday, trailer views hovered at around 250,000. That stat swelled to 1.7 million views by Saturday morning.
"To bring the story of Abby Johnson to audiences and have them show up in such large numbers shows how abortion is so important to bring to audiences," said Pure Flix CEO Michael Scott. "We hope that those on both sides of the debate will see Unplanned and begin to have their own dialogue. This film can be that spark to bring more hearts and minds to understanding the value of life."
Unplanned is set to move into a total of 1,700 theaters next weekend.
April 1, 12:20 p.m.: Updated to include Vice President Pence's tweet.