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Will ‘Breakthrough’ Continue the Box Office Resurrection of Christian Films?

Disney is also releasing nature doc ”Penguins“ before ”Avengers“ arrives next week

With “Unplanned” still performing well at the box office, the recent hot streak for Christian films could continue with Roxann Dawson’s “Breakthrough,” which is hitting theaters tomorrow ahead of Easter weekend

“Breakthrough” tells the story of a married couple (Chrissy Metz and Josh Lucas) who rely on their faith to pull through after their son falls through a frozen lake and ends up in a coma. The film is also a historic one for the film industry, as it will be the first film released by 20th Century Fox under ownership of Disney, which completed its acquisition of the 83-year-old studio last month. It will be one of the final films released through Fox 2000, which Disney is shutting down after it completes the release of its remaining films.

Prior to the completion of last month’s merger with Disney, Fox scheduled this film to come out on Wednesday with the hopes of building word of mouth among Christian audiences heading into Easter weekend. The film is projected by trackers to earn a five-day opening in the mid-teens.

“Breakthrough” comes as Christian films continue to quietly rise as a mainstay in many studios’ release slates. Lionsgate’s presentation at CinemaCon prominently displayed its partnership with Kingdom Studios, a new Christian production outlet founded by Jon and Andrew Erwin. Their multi-film distribution deal with Lionsgate came after the surprising success of “I Can Only Imagine,” a $7 million project that became one of the biggest hits ever in the genre with $83 million grossed at the box office last year.

Meanwhile, indie Christian distributor Pure Flix has found success with their pro-life film “Unplanned,” which has grossed $15.7 million at the box office from fewer than 1,600 screens. Despite having little TV advertising after several networks refused to market the film, “Unplanned” now stands as the second highest grossing film in Pure Flix history, sitting only behind the $20.7 million total made by “God’s Not Dead 2” in 2016.

With Disney/Fox providing a wider release at 2,700 screens, “Breakthrough” should have a higher ceiling at the box office, and could perform well as counterprogramming for older, Christian moviegoers, even with “Avengers” in theaters next weekend. Critics’ reviews have been positive so far, giving the film a 71% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Disney’s other release this weekend is the documentary “Penguins,” which it will release through its Disneynature label. Directed by Alastair Fothergill and Jeff Wyatt Wilson, the 76-minute film will also open on Wednesday and is projected for a $5-7 million five-day opening from 1,800 screens, including 250 on IMAX for a limited engagement.

This is the fifth Disneynature film released to coincide with Earth Day. The last April film released by the documentary wing, “Born In China,” earned $4.7 million from a traditional weekend opening and grossed $13.8 million at the domestic box office.

With Disney releasing two films early, the top film on the weekend charts is expected to be “The Curse of La Llorona,” the first of three Warner Bros./New Line horror films that will be released this year along with “Annabelle Comes Home” and “It: Chapter Two.” As the film is based on a famous myth rather than a well-known IP, “La Llorona” is expected to have a lower box office ceiling with an opening weekend of $17-20 million.

Directed by Michael Chaves, the film follows a social worker in 1970s Los Angeles whose family is endangered by the infamous Mexican ghost who kidnaps children. With the spirit looking to take her children, the mother must rely on a disillusioned priest to save the day. Linda Cardellini and Raymond Cruz star in the film, which has a 38% RT score.