Update: Final box office totals have been updated below, revealing Oprah’s film earned even less than experts originally estimated.
“I Can Only Imagine,” a faith-based film that told the true story behind the popular Christian song, had a blockbuster opening weekend at the box office, beating out Oprah Winfrey’s new anti-Christian film and a critically-acclaimed movie about a gay teenager coming out.
“Black Panther” ruled the box office for the fifth straight week, and coming in second was the new “Tomb Raider” movie. However, despite the hype, “Tomb Raider” was a flop with audiences, earning a paltry $23.6 million. It nearly finished behind the Christian film “I Can Only Imagine,” which finished a close third with over $17 million in ticket sales.
That was good enough to finish ahead of “A Wrinkle in Time” starring Oprah Winfrey and “Love, Simon,” a movie about a gay teen.
Even more impressive is that “I Can Only Imagine” did well in ticket sales despite only playing on 1,628 movie screens, less than half of the number of screens “Tomb Raider” played on, 3,854. That gave “I Can Only Imagine” an average return of over $10,000 in ticket sales per screen, better than any other movie in the top ten, including “Black Panther.”
Oprah’s film “A Wrinkle in Time” is based on a popular kid’s book, but has been criticized for omitting the book’s references to Jesus and Christianity, opting for a New Age theme instead. It got trounced in its first week in theaters, and its failure to sell tickets and impress critics have earned it “bomb” status.
Christians have already had their fill with Oprah, as her shift to New Age mythology has disappointed many. A video in which she claims Jesus is not the one true God has circulated online and lost her many Christian fans.
In a surprise upset, the faith-based ‘I Can Only Imagine’ — about the best-selling Christian song of all time — beats ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ and ‘Love, Simon.’
Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther continued to make history in its fifth weekend at the domestic box office with a haul of $27 million, burying Tomb Raider and becoming only the seventh film ever to cross the $600 million mark in North America.
The other big headline of the weekend was Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate’s faith-based film I Can Only Imagine, which vastly overperformed. The movie debuted to $17.1 million from 1,628 cinemas to defeat A Wrinkle of Time and Love, Simon — the first film from a major Hollywood studio featuring a gay teen protagonist — in a surprise upset.
Tomb Raider’s muted domestic bow of $23.5 million from 3,854 theaters is a disappointment for Warner Bros. and MGM, which partnered in rebooting the female-led franchise that is based on the videogame. In the early 2000s, the Tomb Raider film series — starring Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft — beat the curse that continues to haunt videogame adaptations.
“I really hoped we would do more than $25 million domestically, but the fact that we were No. 1 globally is terrific news,” says Warners domestic distribution chief Jeff Goldstein. “We always viewed this as an international play.”
Tomb Raider placed No. 2 in North America, followed by I Can Only Imagine, which marks the biggest opening in Roadside’s history.
“I Can Only Imagine” was only expected to do modestly at the box office. Produced on a shoestring budget of only $7 million, it impressed moviegoers and critics alike.
The drama stars J. Michael Finley as Bart Millard, the lead singer of the Christian band MercyMe, who wrote “I Can Only Imagine,” the best-selling Christian single of all time. Dennis Quaid and Cloris Leachman also star in the film, which cost a modest $7 million to make. The movie skewed heavily female (67 percent) and older, with 80 percent of the audience over the age of 35.
“It definitely shows that if you build a good movie, this audience will come out,” says Roadside co-president Howard Cohen. “This is a branded property, and Dennis Quaid did a ton of publicity.”
Coming in at No. 4, Ava DuVernay’s Wrinkle in Time grossed $16.2 million in its second weekend domestically, falling 50 percent, despite being a family film. The fantasy-adventure, from Disney, has earned $61.1 million in North America and $71.7 million globally.
Like Tomb Raider, Fox’s YA adaptation Love, Simon disappointed in its opening. The film took fifth place with $11.5 million from 2,402 theaters. Greg Berlanti directed the Fox 2000 dramedy, which stars Nick Robinson as Simon Spier, a closeted high schooler who tries to find out the identity of an anonymous classmate he’s fallen in love with online.
Both Love, Simon and I Can Only Imagine nabbed coveted A+ CinemaScores
Here are the top ten films for the weekend, with their grosses.
1. Black Panther $26.6M
2. Tomb Raider $23.6M
3. I Can Only Imagine $17.1M
4. A Wrinkle in Time $16.2M
5. Love, Simon $11.7M
6. Game Night $5.6M
7. Peter Rabbit $5.2M
8. Strangers: Prey at Night $4.8M
9. Red Sparrow $4.5M
10. Death Wish $3.7M
After Oprah’s recent debacle involving a presidential run, her films failure has shown her once-spotless image and reputation has been tarnished significantly.
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