Pro-life film Unplanned made it to 56 movie theaters across Canada despite opposition from pro-abortion activists who refer to the film as a “piece of hate propaganda.”
The U.S. film brings to the screen the memoir of Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood manager-turned pro-life activist.
Unplanned opened to $353,510 on its opening weekend at the Canadian box office, noted the Hollywood Reporter, despite controversy and even death threats to independent theater owners.
Many Canadian theaters reported sold-out showings, though abortion activists denounced the film and protested it vehemently.
Joyce Arthur, executive director of the coalition, expressed concern about the safety of Canadian abortion providers due to the screening of the film.
According to CBC, Arthur referred to the film as a “piece of hate propaganda.”
“The film’s vicious falsehoods against providers could incite hatred and violence against them, including here in Canada,” she said. “But the film also aims to challenge abortion rights. That’s a non-starter in Canada, where women and transgender people have a Charter right to abortion based on their rights to bodily autonomy and equality.”
Katie Telford, chief of staff to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, also tweeted on numerous occasions her contempt for the film and pro-life activists.
Telford recommended to her followers an opinion piece by an abortion advocate with the headline, “Unplanned and anti-choice activism, and the lies that they tell.”
When the film opened in Canada last Friday, Planned Parenthood Newfoundland and Labrador decided to sponsor a showing of the film Mean Girls as a “fun alternative” to Unplanned, rather than hold a formal protest to the U.S. movie.
Considering the controversy, Canadian film and television producer Martin Katz, marveled at the movie’s distribution, CBC observed.
“My understanding is that it’s quite terrible, but there are a lot of terrible films that get released,” said Katz. “What I think is drastic is that there’s a lot of great Canadian films that don’t get released, if they do get released, they get released on a screen or five screens or six screens, not [almost] 60 screens.”
The CEO of Cineplex, Canada’s largest cinema chain, ultimately justified screening the film based on the principle of free speech.
“Canada is a country that believes in and rallies behind freedom of expression, but that isn’t always an easy thing to do and it certainly doesn’t always make you popular,” said Ellis Jacob. “In this instance many of us will have to set aside our own personal beliefs and remember that living in a country that censors content, opinions, and points of view because they are different from our own is not a country that any of us want to live in.”
The film’s success led to screenings at Cineplex’s rivals, including Cinema Guzzo in Quebec and Imagine Cinemas, Landmark Cinemas, and some independent houses in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario, observed THR.
Unplanned stars Ashley Bratcher in the role of Abby Johnson:
As of July 15, Unplanned‘s North American box office take was at $18.55 million.