The Hollywood establishment might not have been ready to take on Planned Parenthood, but moviegoers apparently are. Despite limited distribution and a curtailed advertising environment, the film Unplanned keeps sustaining itself at the box office. On Sunday, The Hollywood Reporter noticed its surprising weekend finish, especially given its curious MPAA rating:

The R-rated pic scored the second-best start ever for faith-based distributor Pure Flix; tracking had suggested it would earn only around $3 million.

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.

A fifth-place finish was quite an accomplishment. Given its distribution footprint, the film’s performance looks even more impressive:

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.

Actually, according to Box Office Mojo, the film ended up in fourth place overall for the weekend. Its per-theater average of just over $6000 beat third-place Captain Marvel by nearly a grand in that film’s fourth weekend of release. Dumbo won the weekend in its first week of release with a per-theater average of $10,798, but it also had a budget almost 30 times greater than Unplanned. (The other first-weekend release, Matthew McConaughey’s The Beach Bum, finished tenth with a per-theater average of $1,603.)

And so far this week, Unplanned has kept up the pace. Box Office Mojo’s daily tracker shows the film still in fourth place between Captain Marvel and Five Feet Apart, a romantic drama from Lions Gate in its third week, but with better per-theater averages than both, as was true over the weekend.  For a film outside of the power studio establishment, telling a story that challenges abortion and embraces faith, this is an amazing start.

It’s getting other attention, too. Samantha Bee took a whack at the film after Mike Pence tweeted his support of it:

Bee began her show Wednesday night by calling “Unplanned” an “anti-choice propaganda movie” and noted its “not awful” showing at the box office, where it earned more than $6 million and placed fourth behind blockbusters “Dumbo,” “Us,” and “Captain Marvel.”

“It’s obviously ridiculous and no one should see it, but the trailer is honestly wonderful,” Bee sarcastically told her audience. “Ordinarily, I wouldn’t waste precious time talking about a movie so bad, it makes ‘A Christmas Prince 2: Royal Wedding’ look like ‘Citizen Kane 2: A Christmas Cane’… but the vice president tweeted about it from his official account, which makes it news.” …

Bee noted that “Unplanned” sold more than 700,000 tickets and joked that most of them were to “Duggars,” stars of the reality series “19 Kids and Counting.”

Bee also called the pro-life film “mostly made-up,” unlike the “real and terrifying laws” that are being passed in certain states, invoking Georgia’s recently passed “heartbeat” bill that outlaws abortion if a heartbeat can be detected.

Actually, Unplanned tells the true-life experience of Abby Johnson, who worked at Planned Parenthood for eight years. The people buying tickets aren’t just “the Duggars,” because if that’s all it was, Bee wouldn’t have bothered to challenge it in the first place. The film’s performance at the box office obviously has some people worried.


Addendum: You can read my review here.