I Can Only Imagine, the movie which tells the story of the song of the same name, the biggest-selling Christian song in history, had a huge opening weekend. The sites that usually love an underdog film taking on bigger studios are either not reporting on it at all or are making excuses. Why? With a budget of only $7 million, I Can Only Imagine was going up against Love, Simon the story of a high school boy coming out as gay. Their budget was $17,000,000 and they had the support of mainstream media and celebrities. It can’t be that America would rather see an uplifting story of faith and redemption, so the entertainment sites had to make excuses.
A post from the AV Club called, I’m not kidding “Black Panther vs. the Jesus Freaks” tries to downplay it by saying that Love, Simon was “vanilla pudding progressivism” that only played on a “relatively modest” 2,402 screens. I Can Only Imagine played on 1,629. They leave out the latter detail.
Variety says the film “is benefiting from support from churches and groups as well as from from MercyMe, who have been helping promote the film on social media.” MercyMe is the band who originally recorded and released the song on which the film is based. Are we to believe Love, Simon didn’t have support from…everyone else?
One writer for Forbes speculated “I must wonder if at least some of the targeted demographic bought tickets to other movies and snuck into Love, Simon.” While The Atlantic said ” It’s worth also noting that teen movies have suffered recently because it’s hard to get adolescent viewers to go to the theater, period (what with the rise of online platforms like YouTube churning out youth-focused content).”
The only films that beat I Can Only Imagine were Black Panther and Tomb Raider, big-budget, big-studio action films. I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel a little better about the world.