Box office: Christmas with The Chosen is the week’s top new movie

Box office: Christmas with The Chosen is the week’s top new movie December 5, 2021

A Christian Christmas special was the biggest new movie at the box office this weekend.

Deadline reports that Christmas with The Chosen: The Messengers — a theatrical special featuring over an hour of music and a brand-new 35-minute episode of the hit streaming series The Chosen — was the only new release in the top five this weekend.

Christmas with The Chosen grossed an estimated $4.1 million between Friday and Sunday, which was enough to make it the 4th-biggest movie of the weekend — behind Encanto, Ghostbusters: Afterlife and House of Gucci, all of which were in their second or third weeks, and slightly ahead of Marvel’s Eternals, which came out a month ago.

The special also earned another $4.7 million on Wednesday and Thursday, and was the top movie at the box office by far on both of those days.

In total, it is estimated that the special will have earned $8.8 million by tonight.

Distributed by Fathom Events, which normally handles special one-time screenings and the like, Christmas with the Chosen was originally going to be a two-night mid-week event, but the original screenings sold out so quickly that the special got a 10-night run in over 1,600 theatres, which Variety notes is the widest release in the distributor’s history.

Deadline says the special was released “in 1,642 theaters and 194 markets” and did particularly well in the South and the Midwest, “with top markets being Dallas, Houston, Detroit, Phoenix, Minnesota, Denver, Cleveland, Orlando, Sacramento, and St. Louis.”

Notably, despite its relatively limited release, Christmas with The Chosen has already earned more at the box office than other recent Bible films that didn’t have a major distributor like Sony or Lionsgate behind them — films such as 2016’s The Young Messiah ($7.3 million worldwide) and 2018’s Samson ($4.9 million worldwide) — and it is within striking distance of 2018’s Mary Magdalene ($11.7 million worldwide).

The special’s box-office performance also compares favourably with that of The Nativity Story, which earned $7.8 million in just over 3,000 theatres on this weekend 15 years ago. That film stayed in theatres until mid-January and earned $37.6 million in North America altogether, and another $8.8 million overseas.

Ironically, series creator Dallas Jenkins has often noted that he started working on The Chosen after his last attempt at a big-screen movie — 2017’s The Resurrection of Gavin Stone — crashed and burned at the box office.

That film earned a grand total of $2.3 million during its theatrical release, but Christmas with The Chosen made more than that on its first day alone.

Jenkins noted the contrast on his Facebook page:

Interestingly, the success of Christmas with The Chosen — a theatrical release based on a popular streaming series — also plugs into current debates over the relationship between theatrical and digital platforms. The movie wouldn’t exist without the streaming series, but, at the same time, the movie is currently enjoying a “window” of theatrical exclusivity. Right now, the only way to see the special — or the brand new episode embedded within it — is to buy a ticket at the movie theatre.

Jenkins has promised that the episode and/or the special as a whole will be available on one or more of the streaming services eventually, just like every other episode of the series, but there has been no announcement yet as to when this will happen.

Another irony: as Scott Mendelson at Forbes has noted, the other new release that got a lot of buzz this week was Benedetta, a foreign-language film about a lesbian nun who, among other things, has visions and/or fantasies about Jesus.

The director of that film, Paul Verhoeven, has written a book about the historical Jesus and has talked for decades about making his own movie on the subject. (This week, he told The New York Times he was still working on the film, and added, “For a long time I made mistakes and tried to invent too much stuff that was not in the Gospels. I feel that I should be closer to the Gospels but look at them in a different way.”)

Benedetta earned $145,000 in 202 theaters this week and comes to VOD December 21.

In the meantime, here is how Christmas with The Chosen ranks at the box office next to other Bible-themed movies that have played in theatres over the past 40 years (note: this list counts North American grosses only):

  1. 2004 — The Passion of the Christ — $370.8 million
  2. 1998 — The Prince of Egypt — $101.4 million
  3. 2014 — Noah — $101.2 million
  4. 2014 — Exodus: Gods and Kings — $65 million
  5. 2014 — Son of God — $59.7 million
  6. 2017 — The Shack — $57.4 million
  7. 2009 — Year One — $43.3 million
  8. 2017 — The Star — $40.9 million
  9. 2006 — The Nativity Story — $37.6 million
  10. 2016 — Risen — $36.9 million
  11. 1981 — History of the World, Part I — $31.7 million
  12. 2016 — Hail, Caesar! — $30.5 million
  13. 2016 — Ben-Hur — $26.4 million
  14. 2002 — Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie — $25.6 million
  15. 1979 — Monty Python’s Life of Brian — $20 million
  16. 2018 — Paul, Apostle of Christ — $17.6 million
  17. 1980 — Wholly Moses! — $14.2 million
  18. 2006 — One Night with the King — $13.4 million
  19. 2021 — Christmas with The Chosen: The Messengers — $8.8 Million
  20. 1988 — The Last Temptation of Christ — $8.4 million
  21. 2016 — The Young Messiah — $6.5 million
  22. 1985 — King David — $5.1 million
  23. 2018 — Samson — $4.7 million
  24. 2003 — The Gospel of John — $4.1 million
  25. 2007 — The Ten Commandments — $952,820
  26. 2018 — Mary Magdalene — $124,741

– – –

The Chosen can be streamed in full via VidAngel or the show’s app (Android | Apple).

I interviewed co-writer/director Dallas Jenkins in December 2019 (after Season 1 came out) and in May 2021 (during Season 2; we spoke after Episode 5 came out).

I interviewed executive producer Derral Eves about Christmas with The Chosen.

I reviewed Season 1 of The Chosen and Christmas with The Chosen: The Messengers.

I have also written detailed analyses of each episode of Season 1:
zero | one | two | three | four | five | six | seven | eight | scripture index

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