April 01, 2019
It had to stare down a media blackout, an R-rating, even a suspended Twitter account, but the pro-life movie Unplanned still defied all the odds. On opening weekend, the true story about former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson stunned Hollywood by climbing to number five on the box office charts and doubling projections with $6 million dollars in ticket sales.
"We are thrilled, gratified, and humbled," co-directors Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman said Sunday. "We are so pleased that the American people have responded with such an enormous outpouring of support at the box office... [W]e look forward to seeing what happens in the weeks ahead." Like Gosnell, the movie had a tough time getting visibility in the mainstream press. Several TV networks refused to sell advertising time to the project, while the Motion Picture Association of America tried to dissuade audiences with a Restricted rating.
But never underestimate pro-lifers. An outpouring of support helped Unplanned break through all of the obstacles, even earning a rare A+ from CinemaScore in the process. For the film's distributor, Pure Flix, it was the second-best start ever -- coming in just slightly behind God's Not Dead 2. For lead actress Ashley Bratcher, whose own story took a surprising twist when she got the job, the response is overwhelming. "I am blown away by the public response to Unplanned, as well as the box office numbers," she said. "Not only is it beyond my wildest dreams, but it has surpassed the expectations of critics across the country. Despite biased critic reviews written more like op-eds, the audience has spoken." Still, she pointed out, "the most rewarding thing about this weekend's opening is the flood of messages I've received from people experiencing healing and a change of heart."
That's exactly what social media giants like Twitter must be afraid of. After a blockbuster weekend for the film's social media page, the Unplanned account was mysteriously suspended -- just as followers jumped to 100,000. Coincidence? Investor Mike Lindell doesn't think so. "They don't want you to see this movie!" the My Pillow founder tweeted. "Make your voices heard and tell your friends to go see the movie this weekend!"
Frustrated, co-director Konzelman spoke out. "It's a sad state of affairs when the right to free speech gets shut down with the flick of a switch... Whether this was an executive decision by Twitter, or a reaction by Twitter to complaints from those opposed to the pro-life viewpoint, either reason is unacceptable." Actress Bratcher piled on. "If Twitter is committed to helping increase the 'openness and civility of public conversation' and to hold themselves 'accountable towards progress,' then what's with the censorship of a differentiating opinion?"
Fortunately, after a groundswell of protest started hitting Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey's account, the page was suddenly live again. The social media giant insisted the suspension was an accident. Even so, the Unplanned account seems to be locked in a see-saw battle for followers, since tens of thousands seem to keep vanishing. PJ Media's Tyler O'Neil was one of the many people who tried -- unsuccessfully -- to follow the film's page and got an error message instead.
Of course, it's no mystery why social media would want to keep the movie quiet. Like most of the liberal platforms in America, they know how powerful the truth about abortion can be. That's why they've spent years hiding the violent reality of what happens behind Planned Parenthood's closed doors.
But this is one of those rare moments in time -- like Gosnell, like New York's abortion law -- when the pro-life movement has the opportunity to break through to the hearts and minds of millions of Americans. So what can you do? Go see the movie! Take your church group, your family, or your Bible study. If your local theater isn't playing the movie, call them up and demand it. Then have your friends do the same. Can a handful of movie tickets change the debate? Buy some and let's find out!
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.