‘Unplanned’ Perfectly Captures Culture War Fight
The pro-life film “Unplanned” over-performed this weekend against all odds.
The film earned $6.1 million from roughly 1,000 screens, about one-fourth of the number some mainstream movies receive on opening weekend. (For comparison’s sake, Disney’s “Dumbo” simultaneously opened on 4,259 screens).
“Unplanned” tells the true story of Abby Johnson (Ashley Bratcher), a Planned Parenthood director who becomes a fierce anti-abortion advocate. Pure Flix, the film’s distributor, says an additional 600 theaters will be added for its second weekend. The movie earned an A+ rating via CinemaScore.
Most movies these days face their fair share of struggles en route to theaters. Even alleged sure things can under-perform or flat-out flop. “Dumbo” falls in the former category. Last year’s “Robin Hood” reboot epitomizes the latter.
Consider what the team behind “Unplanned” had to endure beyond the usual roadblocks.
- Scattered scathing reviews from left-leaning media outlets
- A dearth of TV advertisements (more on this shortly)
- A modest budget ($6 million)
- No A-list talent to buoy marketing efforts
That’s just a partial list. The filmmakers shot “Unplanned” in secret so as not to generate blowback due to its pro-life subject matter.
It gets worse.
Team “Unplanned” got turned down by a number of TV networks who refused to show ads for the film. The list of high-profile channels includes Lifetime, The Hallmark Channel, USA Networks, The Travel Channel and HGTV.
Just snagging music for the film proved a chore.
Blake Kanicka, music supervisor for Unplanned, a feature film being made by some of the same people who turned God’s Not Dead into a surprise box office hit, tells The Hollywood Reporter he was prevented from licensing any music from a half dozen of the largest music companies….
“There was a pattern of denial with our quote requests,” says Kanicka. “Our team has never seen such a uniform denial across the board regardless of price, genre, usage or type.”
The film also earned a bizarre “R” rating for abortion-related imagery. “Unplanned” has no mature language, sexuality or graphic violence. The abortion sequences are tense at times, but hardly graphic enough to warrant an R rating.
Horror movies like “Happy Death Day 2U,” by comparison, often snare an audience-friendly PG-13 mark despite their frequent gore.
And, most recently, Twitter temporarily suspended the official “Unplanned” Twitter account smack dab in the heart of its opening weekend. Studios rely heavily on that weekend to build momentum, make up production costs and set the stage for a robust theatrical run.
Losing Twitter during that critical span, even for a short spell, can’t be dismissed.
FAST FACT: The filmmakers behind “Unplanned, Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman, previously made the smash faith-based drama “God Is Dead.”
Media outlets covered some of these obstacles in a sober fashion. Few mainstream outlets connected the Twitter outage to the company’s repeated attacks on right-leaning voices.
What’s missing in the coverage? We’ve yet to see any outrage about the unusual obstacles facing the film’s release.
Now, compare that to “Captain Marvel.”
The latest MCU adventure, starring outspoken progressive Brie Larson, forced RottenTomatoes.com to change its policies regarding pre-release buzz.
The New York Times’ headline on the subject says it all, “When Captain Marvel Became a Target, the Rules Changed.”
Most critically, it eliminated prerelease audience reviews. It also stopped displaying the percentage of moviegoers who say they “want to see” a film in favor of using the raw number of people. And it removed the “not interested” button.
The media collectively cheered the move, deriding so-called trolls in the process. Any criticism of the film, its trailer or its star became problematic.
YouTube joined the fight, too. The online video portal tweaked its algorithms to downplay those critical of the film. CNET.com cheered, “not all heroes wear capes” as a result.
Just a few days ago, Netflix went to bat for Larson, too. The Oscar winner is the director of a new Netflix original film, “Unicorn Store.” When just one person on Twitter questioned Larson’s directorial qualifications the network quickly struck back.
“Captain Marvel” is part of the MCU’s new woke agenda, a shift directly supported by Larson. Reporters rallied to its cause as a result. It’s undeniable.
So is this:
Where were these reporters as “Unplanned” faced a wave of over-the-top attacks? Why would media outlets rush to defend one film but not another? Does anyone think it’s fair that Twitter would shut down a movie’s official account on opening weekend? Can you imagine the outcry in the press had that happened to Captain Marvel’s Twitter account?
What if a pro-choice movie faced a fraction of the heat “Unplanned” came up against?
Two years ago, Netflix raced to protect progressive comic Amy Schumer. Her standup act, “The Leather Special,” earned a crush of negative reviews. Schumer blamed the “alt-right” trolls for the comments.
So the streaming giant literally changed its system in reaction to the blowback.
Blame Trolls for Amy Schumer’s Bad Netflix ‘Leather Special’ Reviews https://t.co/WyGj5bhRWo #trolls #reviews #AmySchumer pic.twitter.com/FfG9B3Rgll
— J. Harris Promotions (@JHarrispromo) March 16, 2017
Schumer doesn’t hide her far left politics. Nor does “Unplanned” camouflage its pro-life message. It wears it proudly. Music studios, television channels and a major social media platform threw shards of glass in its path.
Yet the cumulative, unprecedented attacks on a single film were met with a media yawn.
“Captain Marvel’s” social politics are less overt but obvious. And that’s why the media and major corporations rushed to its defense.
The culture war is real, and both the media and some major companies have chosen sides.
UPDATE: New York magazine published a hit piece claiming “Unplanned” is inspiring “harassment” against pro-life forces.