When you think Hollywood, you don’t normally think of the Mormon Church, but that changed this weekend.
The documentary film “Meet the Mormons” — produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — just missed the top ten nationally, taking in an estimated $2.7 million. It did that despite being in just 317 theaters and essentially missing out on Sunday business, when LDS church members typically refrain from going to the movies.
Its per-screen average of $7,278 wasn’t far behind those of “Gone Girl” ($8,161) and “Dracula Untold” ($8,125).
“These results certainly exceeded our expectations” said Purdie Distribution founder Brandon Purdie.
The film was originally designed for viewing in the Legacy Theater in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City. But demand driven by a grassroots campaign and a targeted social media message caused church leaders to rethink the plan.
“As we first started talking about a release in commercial theaters, even I was shocked,” the movie’s director, Blair Treu, told the Deseret News last week.
The feature-length documentary portrays the personal stories of six diverse LDS members from around the world.
One is Jermaine Sullivan, an African-American bishop in Atlanta, another is Ken Niumatalolo, head football coach at the Naval Academy and a third is Bishnu Adhikari, an engineer who organizes humanitarian projects in the Himalayas. Also profiled is Dawn Armstrong, a missionary mother in Utah who struggled as a homeless single parent. Former “American Idol” star David Archuleta, a devout Mormon, sang the track “Glorious” for the film.
The movie doesn’t shy away from stereotypes. “We understand this is what you might think about us,” True said. “And guess what, that’s OK. We’ll even have a laugh along with you. But we invite you to look at us from a different point of view.”
There’s something else that makes “Meet the Mormons” a Hollywood anomaly — The Church is donating all net proceeds from the film’s theatrical release to the American Red Cross.