Whenever a faith-based film performs well at the box office, many in the industry may be surprised — while the rest of the country is not. This trend continued over the weekend with the release of “I Can Only Imagine.”

Based on the MercyMe double platinum song of the same name, the movie focuses on singer Bart Millard’s relationship with his father before the elder man passed away when Millard was just 18 years old. The movie embraces the theme of forgiveness, specifically when it comes to family members.

In its first weekend in theaters, “I Can Only Imagine” earned $17.1 million on a $7 million budget. The performance is one The Hollywood Reporter called a “surprise upset” because the film outperformed major releases such as “A Wrinkle in Time” and “Love, Simon.”

Reviews of “I Can Only Imagine” from the general public have been incredibly positive so far. The film has a near-perfect 96 percent positive rating from audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, and people have been using social media to spread the word about the film.



Hollywood studios and entertainment media should not be surprised that faith-based and faith-friendly films succeed at the box office at this point.

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After all, there were plenty of Christian-themed films that did well just last year. Such examples include “The Star” ($62.9 million at the box office on a $20 million budget); “The Case For Christ” ($17.6 million, $3 million budget); “The Shack” ($96.9 million, $20 million budget); and “Let There Be Light” ($7.2 million on a $3 million budget) — a film that was independently produced thanks to executive producer Sean Hannity.

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Although pop culture is has become so highly secular in recent years, 75 percent of the country identifies as Christian, according to a 2015 Gallup poll. That means there are close to 250 million Christians in the United States — of the 325.7 million legal residents listed on the 2017 census.

There are more Christians in the country than there are sports fans (63 percent, according to Gallup), Democrats, Republicans, or most other factions of people.

Just 14 years ago, Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” made $611.9 million at the box office on a $30 million budget.

If Hollywood put more resources into projects that resonate with Middle America and the country’s faithful instead of ignoring their own secular and often elitist values — that colossal revenue figure could be surpassed.

Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, ESPN, and other outlets.