• Thomas Bonifield

"Indivisible" Kicks Off With a Low Theater Count

The Christian film debuts this Friday in fewer than 1,000 theaters.

Directed by David Evans (The Grace Card), Indivisible is based on the true story of US Army chaplain Darren Turner and his wife Heather and their battle to save their marriage after he returns from Iraq. The film stars Justin Bruening and Sarah Drew, both of Grey's Anatomy fame, so it has some star power.


The picture will nevertheless open in just 830 theaters, according to Box Office Mojo. As a point of reference, Unbroken: Path to Redemption, a Christian movie now approaching the end of its theatrical run, opened in 1,620 theaters; big secular movies regularly top 3,000 theaters.


Make no mistake, theater count usually has a direct correlation to box office returns: Unbroken: Path to Redemption has generated $6.18 million in six weeks, only slightly above its $6 million production budget and far from doubling its money in order to break even...yes, that's what most films need to do before they're in the black.


Working in its favor, Indivisible was shot on a much tighter budget - $2.7 million - so it has a significantly lower threshold to reach profitability. And a big opening weekend could also alter the theater-count dynamics. That number normally starts steadily dropping after a couple weeks and very rarely goes up. It can happen, though, as in the case of I Can Only Imagine, the Erwin Brothers' smash hit from earlier this year.


That biopic about Christian rock star Bart Millard of Mercy Me - shot on a budget of $7 million - debuted in 1,629 theaters. But its opening weekend was so successful - $17 million versus expectations of $4 million - that it increased its theater count each of the next three weeks, ultimately reaching 2,894 theaters. In a word, a big opening weekend is critically important.


I Can Only Imagine is an outlier in that regard and many others: it is the most successful indie film of the year and ranks number six in all-time box office revenue in the Christian genre. Indivisible is unlikely to duplicate that success. It does, however, stand a decent chance of turning a profit, particularly if fans turn out in large enough numbers for its debut weekend to push up that theater count.


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