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You Can See “Unplanned” In Theaters, But You Won’t See Its Ads On Most TV Channels

Most networks have refused to run ads for the pro-life movie.

The new pro-life movie, “Unplanned,” scored big points at the box office on its opening weekend. The story of Planned Parenthood executive-turned-pro-life activist, Abby Johnson, earned more than $6.1 million on its opening weekend, enough to rank fourth in gross revenues. The strong performance was despite many networks refusing to run ads for the socially conservative film.

The creators of “Unplanned” told The Hollywood Reporter that they tried to buy advertising from a number of cable networks, but few channels other than Fox News and the Christian Broadcast Network would accept the ads. Among the networks that refused to air commercials for the move were Lifetime, the Travel Channel, Cooking Channel, HGTV, Food Network, the Hallmark Channel and USA Network.

“We were looking to spend money, but they didn’t want to get involved,” John Sullivan, one of the film’s producers, said.

“Most of the networks didn’t go into detail beyond citing the subject matter of the film and that they didn’t want to get into politics. But we don’t believe we’re in the political category,” Joe Knopp, another producer added, despite the fact that the film was screened at CPAC.

Several networks, including Lifetime, cited the “sensitive nature of the film” in refusing the ads. Up TV, a family-friendly network, and some Christian radio stations cited the film’s R-rating in denying the ads. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) gave the film an R-rating in February due to “some disturbing/bloody images” in a scene that uses a computer-generated image of a sonogram to simulate an abortion, noted CNS News. The film’s marketers pointed out that Lifetime, which is owned by A&E, a joint venture of Hearst Communications and Disney, previously promoted an interview with Scarlet Johansson in which the actress promoted Planned Parenthood.

Despite being handicapped by the lack of television advertising, “Unplanned” did extremely well in its opening weekend. The movie finished the weekend in fourth place after “Dumbo,” “Us,” and “Captain Marvel,” per Box Office Mojo. When the fact that “Unplanned” was shown on only 1,059 screens is taken into account, its revenue per screen outperformed “Captain Marvel,” which was released on March 8.

“We are thrilled, gratified and humbled,” co-directors Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelma said in a statement. “We are so pleased that the American people have responded with such an enormous outpouring of support at the box office. It humbles us and we look forward to seeing what happens in the weeks ahead.”

The financial success of “Unplanned” is largely due to Glenn Beck, who actively promoted the movie, and MyPillow founder, Mike Lindell, who was both an investor and promoter. The CPAC screening sparked word-of-mouth and social media recommendations by conservative activists.

The movie also may have benefitted from a controversy over the weekend in which Twitter suspended the account for “Unplanned.” Twitter told the Daily Caller that the account was “mistakenly caught in our automated systems for ban evasion.” The account was ultimately reinstated, but the spat may have inspired some conservatives to get out and go see the movie.

Pure Flix, the production company for “Unplanned,” has also produced such films as “God’s Not Dead,” “Mom’s Night Out,” and “The Case For Christ” as well as a number of movies about Biblical characters. The company also operates an on-demand video streaming service and offers a free home school curriculum.

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