How ‘The Chosen’ Became the Latest Heavenly Hit for Fathom Events and Angel Studios

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Advance screenings of the streaming series’ third season drew $8.2 million this weekend

The Chosen
Jonathan Roumie as Jesus of Nazareth in "The Chosen"

Fathom Events, which has carved out a specialty niche with its limited engagements of faith-based films, scored a big win this weekend screening the first two episodes of the upcoming third season of the Jesus biopic TV series “The Chosen.”

Angel Studios’ production landed in the No. 3 spot on the box office charts, with a heavenly $8.2 million from 2,027 theaters, just behind the $9 million opening that Searchlight’s “The Menu” earned with approximately 1,200 more theaters in play. Angel Studios’ series, now in its third season, is a retelling of Jesus of Nazareth’s life and ministry alongside his disciples that has been produced primarily on a crowdfunded budget with tens of millions of dollars donated by the series’ evangelical Christan fan base.

Because of that crowdfunding, “The Chosen” is free to stream through an app made specifically for the show, but its fans have paid tickets this weekend to see new episodes before they’re available for streaming next month. The theatrical release has been so successful that Fathom is extending the run of the episodes at least through December 1 and possibly beyond.

“Hollywood heads into the opening weekend hoping that there is an audience. Angel’s crowd-funded audience heads to the theater to celebrate their crowd-funded release,” Angel Studios’ SVP of Global Distribution Jared Geesey told TheWrap. “They are super fans, they are advocates and want to support it wherever it can be seen.”

With the mainstream movie release slate still depleted due to COVID-19 production backlogs, event screening distributors like Fathom have stepped in to provide specialty offerings on weekends where a major new release isn’t available. Such stunt bookings haven’t been enough to make up for the months-long slumps the box office has seen since theaters reopened, but they have allowed Fathom to expand its footprint with exhibitors and increase gross totals.

Angel Studios was a key partner in this growth, as last year the faith-based studio partnered with Fathom to release “Christmas With the Chosen: The Messengers,” a Christmas special tied to the series that grossed $13.1 million in December 2021 and became Fathom’s highest grossing event release ever.

“This crowd with ‘The Chosen’ never had a chance to gather communally and share in their passion for the show until ‘The Messengers,’” Fathom Events CEO Ray Nutt said. “It has become so popular that with this Season 3 screening, we have even expanded internationally to the U.K., Ireland, New Zealand, Australia and Canada.”

The following spring, Fathom Events and Angel Studios began talks on ways to expand their partnership — which led to plans for advanced viewing of the coming third season. The studio chose a release date of Nov. 18 as a release date since it wouldn’t face off directly against a tentpole launch like Disney/Marvel’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and come just ahead of Thanksgiving weekend.

“These theater operations, whether they are national chains or independent chains, are recognizing the value of what we are offering,” Nutt said. “We used to have to require exhibitors to be on our satellite network, but we now offer screenings in a DCP format like any other movie, and that has expanded our footprint by about 500 screens.”

With the extended play time and the larger screen count, “The Chosen” should pass its own Christmas special to set a new record for Fathom. While “The Chosen” is unique in its appeal among Fathom’s lineup of concerts, theatrical broadcasts, classic films and faith-based titles, the distributor is hoping to bring back evangelicals in early December with “Johnny Cash: Redemption of an American Icon,” a documentary about the spirituality of the famed musician produced by Jon and Andrew Erwin’s Kingdom Story Company.

Scott Mendelson contributed to this report.