WHAT’S OUR ENDGAME?

On television, Game of Thrones’ Battle of Winterfell and in theaters, the release of Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame made this weekend arguably the biggest pop culture weekend in modern history.[1][2] But even the most popular television show in HBO history, boasting an average of 31 million viewers per episode during its last season, cannot compete against Marvel’s latest juggernaut.[3][4] Within 24 hours, the long anticipated Game of Thrones season 8 trailer was viewed 81 million times, shattering HBO’s previous record which was also held by Game of Thrones.[5][6][7] However, Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame obliterated all records with 289 million views of its trailer in a single day.[8][9]10]

 

Pre-ticket sales for Endgame “broke the internet,” crashing the web’s largest ticket venues[11] with more tickets sold at Atom Tickets than Avengers: Infinity War, The Last Jedi, Aquaman, and Captain Marvel combined.[12] Within six hours, Endgame became the largest first-day ticket seller in Fandango’s history.[13] Likewise, China set a new ticket sales record, with Endgame becoming the first film in China to sell 1 million advanced tickets in six hours, and having outsold in a mere three hours the first seven days’ worth of advanced tickets sold for Avengers: Infinity War.[14]

 

Desperate to be a part of the pop culture phenomena and to learn the fate of beloved heroes, some fans purchased tickets on E-bay for as much as $2,499.[15] This level of devotion resulted in the movie opening in a record 4,662 theaters in North America.[16] Across the nation, theaters pushed aside recently released movies in order to show Endgame on multiple screens, and some theaters even played the film around-the-clock, remaining open 24-hours a day throughout the weekend.[17][18]

 

The result was astronomical with Endgame debuting at a record $156.7 million on its first day, $350 million domestically over its opening weekend, and $1.2 billion globally.[19] It obliterated even the most optimistic projections,[20][21] earning $100 million more than its prequel, Avengers: Infinity War, on its opening weekend.[22][23]

 

The numbers for Endgame continue to come, but they have already steamrolled over 144 box office records.[24] Accord to The Wrap, these include:

  • 12 advanced ticket sale records
  • 44 opening weekend records
  • 29 single day grossing records
  • Highest global opening for IMAX and 3D formats
  • 50 IMAX opening weekend records
  • Fastest to $100, $200, and $300 million domestic[25] and $1 billion worldwide
  • Largest Thursday preview
  • Largest wide opening per screen average
  • Largest combined domestic weekend of all time
  • Largest overseas opening of all time
  • Largest global opening of all time[26]

 

As the culmination of an 11-year and 22-movie story arch, Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame is truly a cultural phenomenon that has captured the hearts and imaginations of people throughout our country, regardless of demographic or religious affiliation.[27] Indeed, countless Christians are numbered among the anticipating Marvel fans who have talked incessantly about this film for the last year, posting comments like “Suuuuper excited!!! No words can desirbe [sic] my excitement woohoo!! XD” and “I wouldn’t miss it for the world!”[28]

 

One can’t help but wonder where this level of excitement and devotion among Christians was for another recently released movie. Unplanned told the true story of Planned Parenthood’s youngest clinic director turned pro-life activist.[29] The movie is a powerful reminder that “all children, born and unborn, deserve our love.”[30] Abby Johnson, upon whose testimony the movie is based, said of the film, “No one will be able to walk away after seeing this movie and say, ‘I didn’t know.”[31]

 

Filmed in secret to avoid generating blowback,[32] and opening in only 1,059 theaters,[33] Unplanned faced technological censorship according to the film’s writer and director Chuck Konzelman’s testimony to Congress.[34] It struggled to make itself known when its commercials were rejected by major television channels such as Lifetime, the Hallmark Channel, and HGTV as well as many Christian radio stations.[35] Furthermore, the movie’s Twitter account was temporarily suspended on Saturday during its opening weekend.[36] The next day, the account mysteriously lost most of its followers, plummeting from 100,000 followers to 151 in a matter of hours.[37] Users who subscribed were automatically made to unfollow when they refreshed their feed.[38][39]

 

Beyond this, Unplanned was given an R-rating because of “some disturbing/bloody images” of aborted babies.[40] Unlike the PG-13 Endgame, which portrays the decapitation of a villain, “UNPLANNED is an ‘R’ rated film which has no MPAA cautions for profanity, nudity, sex or violence … except for violence directly associated with the abortion process,” the movie’s directors told Movieguide.[41] This too limited where the movie could be promoted.

 

Despite these hurdles, Unplanned doubled its box-office earnings, ranking fourth in a lineup that included the behemoths, Dumbo, Us, and Captain Marvel.[42][43] Nevertheless, it only earned $6.38 million in its opening weekend and $17.74 million after 31 days.[44] Impressive as this may be for a censored Christian film showing in limited theaters nationwide, these numbers are a joke when compared to the pop culture phenomenon Avengers: Endgame which grossed $156.7 million in a single day.

 

According to a Pew Research Center report, “About six-in-ten white Evangelical Protestants (61%) think abortion should be illegal in all or most cases,” and among Catholics, “42% say it should be illegal.”[45] Given that nearly half (46.2%) of all Americans self-identify as Catholic or Evangelical, according to the Pew Research Center, the potential support for Unplanned is enormous. It should have been sufficient to set its own records, and even to rival the domestic box office earnings of Endgame. Where then were God’s people?

 

Unplanned is no ordinary Christian film. The movie’s director, Chuck Konzelman, testified before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee that only 10 days after the movie’s release, 94 abortion workers had already approached Abby Johnson’s organization And Then There Were None which transitions workers out of the abortion industry. According to Konzelman, this constitutes roughly 1% of the abortion workers in our nation, and they are seeking help to leave the industry.[46][47][48]

 

Moreover, this powerful glimpse into the inner workings of Planned Parenthood and the appalling nature of abortion arrived at the peak of a national debate on the subject. Several states were seeking radical expansions to their abortion laws. The New York legislature had just given a standing ovation to the passing of a bill that made abortion at any stage legal and that repealed a state law protecting newborns who are born alive during a failed abortion.[49][50] The U.S. Senate had just failed to pass the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.[51][52] And Virginia Governor Ralph Northam had just said that only a mother and her doctor should be permitted to determine whether to provide medical care to a baby born alive after a failed abortion.[53][54][55]

 

Shockingly, God’s people were largely silent throughout this entire debate. Clearly, we have lost sight of our endgame. As such, perhaps it is not surprising that so few Christians chose to support the movie Unplanned in its efforts to expose people to the truth and to compel serious consideration and debate on the subject of abortion. But this begs the question, “If we are not willing even to go watch a movie in order to support the cause for life, then how can we ever expect to see real change in our country?” There is perhaps no easier form of activism than to sit and watch a movie, and yet far too many of God’s people have proven to be unwilling even to do this.

 

Ironically, the plot of Avengers: Endgame centers around the efforts of superheroes to protect the innocent and to preserve life. As Christians, we are happy to entertain ourselves by watching others heroically step up to defend life, even as we ourselves are unwilling even to endure the discomfort of watching a disturbing movie to defend life. Something is seriously wrong! We’ve lost sight of our goal. And until we are willing to face our hypocrisy and our apathy, nothing will change.

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Timothy Zebell

Timothy Zebell

As a former missionary to Asia for twelve years and the author of several books, Timothy is passionate about helping people understand the relevancy of God's Word in today's world. His goals are to help Christians discern truth from error, empower Christians to speak into cultural matters with relevancy, and to help Christians capitalize on the opportunities that these matters provide for sharing the truth about God and His gospel message.
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1. Bycroft, Lauren. “Is This the Biggest Pop Culture Weekend in Modern History.” Skewed and Reviewed, April 24, 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. http://sknr.net/2019/04/24/is-this-the-biggest-pop-culture-weekend-in-modern-history/.

2. Melrose, Kevin. “Avengers: Endgame vs. Game of Thrones is Bigger Than the Super Bowl.” CBR.com, April 25, 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.cbr.com/avengers-endgame-game-of-thrones-bigger-than-super-bowl/.

3. Han, Angie. “‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7 Finale Smashes Ratings Records.” Mashable, August 28, 2017. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://mashable.com/2017/08/28/game-of-thrones-season-7-ratings-records/#10cipFionmqB.

4. Schaal, Eric. “Is ‘Game of Thrones’ the Most-Watched Show in HBO’s History.” Cheat Sheet, April 6, 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/is-game-of-thrones-the-most-watched-show-in-hbos-history.html/.

5. Maas, Jennifer and Tim Baysinger. “‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8 Trailer Racks Up 81 Million Views in Its First 24 Hours, and HBO Record.” The Wrap, March 8, 2019. Last Updated March 8, 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.thewrap.com/game-of-thrones-season-8-trailer-views-record-81-million-hbo/.

6. Bruney, Gabrielle. “The Game of Thrones Season 8 Trailer Smashed Viewing Records.” Esquire, March 9, 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/a26771401/game-of-thrones-season-8-trailer-record/.

7. Patten, Dominic. “‘Game of Thrones’ Final Season Trailer Royally Shatters HBO Viewing Records.” Deadline, March 8, 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://deadline.com/2019/03/game-of-thrones-final-season-trailer-record-views-hbo-emilia-clarke-peter-dinklage-lena-headey-kit-harington-1202572535/.

8. Fitzpatrick, Kevin. “Avengers: Endgame Is Already Setting Major Records.” Vanity Fair, December 8, 2018. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2018/12/avengers-endgame-trailer-records.

9. Spangler, Todd. “‘Avengers: Endgame’ Trailer Smashes 24-Hour Video Views Record.” Variety, December 8, 2018. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://variety.com/2018/digital/news/avengers-endgame-record-trailer-worldwide-24-hour-views-1203085074/.

10. Parker, Ryan. “‘Avengers: Endgame’ Trailer Breaks Record for Most Views in 24 Hours.” Hollywood Reporter, December 18, 2018. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/avengers-endgame-trailer-breaks-record-views-24-hours-1167770.

11. Chichizola, Corey. “Avengers: Endgame Pre-Sales Break Ticket Purchasing Websites.” Cinema Blend, March. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.cinemablend.com/news/2469276/avengers-endgame-pre-sale-tickets-break-ticket-purchasing-websites.

12. Whitten, Sarah. “‘Avengers: Endgame’ Has Sold Nearly Twice as Many Advanced Tickets as ‘Aquaman,’ ‘The Last Jedi,’ ‘Infinity War,’ and ‘Captain Marvel’ Combined.” CNBC, April 9, 2019. Last Updated April 9, 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/09/avengers-endgame-is-smashing-box-office-records-advance-ticket-sales.html.

13. Sharf, Zack. “‘Avengers: Endgame’ Tickets Are so Hard to Get People Are Selling Them on Ebay for over $2,000.” Salon, April 3, 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.salon.com/2019/04/03/avengers-endgame-tickets-are-so-hard-to-get-people-are-selling-them-on-ebay-for-over-2000_partner/.

14. Sharf, Zack. “‘Avengers: Endgame’ Shatters China Ticket Sale Record, Outsells ‘Infinity War’ First Week in 3 Hours.” Indie Wire, April 12, 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.indiewire.com/2019/04/avengers-endgame-china-ticket-sale-record-outsells-infinity-war-three-hours-1202058423/.

15. Sharf, Zack. “‘Avengers: Endgame’ Tickets Are so Hard to Get People Are Selling Them on Ebay for over $2,000.”

16. Brevet, Brad. “‘Avengers: Endgame’ Decimates Record Books with $1.2 Billion Global Debut.” Box Office Mojo, April 28, 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.boxofficemojo.com/news/?id=4507&p=.htm.

17. Guerrasio, Jason. “Demand Is so High for ‘Avengers: Endgame’ That Many AMC Theaters Will Be Open 24 Hours a Day All Weekend.” Business Insider, April 23, 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.businessinsider.com/avengers-endgame-amc-theaters-open-24-hours-a-day-opening-weekend-2019-4.

18. Schwartzel, Erich. “‘Avengers: Endgame’ Prompts Theaters to Plan 24-Hour Screenings, Double the Popcorn.” The Wallstreet Journal, April 24, 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.wsj.com/articles/avengers-endgame-prompts-theaters-to-plan-24-hour-screenings-double-the-popcorn-11556098200.

19. Cavna, Michael. “‘Avengers: Endgame’ Shatters Box-Office Records with a $1.2 Billion Global Debut.” Washington Post, April 28, 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/arts-entertainment/2019/04/28/avengers-endgame-shatters-box-office-records-with-billion-global-debut/?utm_term=.c8000c0b84ae.

20. Fuster, Jeremy and Brian Welk. “‘Avengers: Endgame’ Early Box Office Projections Set at $265 Million.” The Wrap, March 1, 2019. Last Updated March 1, 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.thewrap.com/avengers-endgame-early-box-office-projections-set-at-265-million/.

21. Aguilar, Matthew. “‘Avengers: Endgame’ Box Office Projections Closing in on Record-Shattering, near $1 Billion Global Launch.” Comic Book, April 23, 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://comicbook.com/marvel/2019/04/23/avengers-endgame-box-office-record-near-1-billion-launch/.

22. Gerber, Sean. “‘Avengers: Endgame’ Completely Shatters Box Office Records with $350M Domestic and Over $1.2B Worldwide Opening.” Marvel Studio News, April 28, 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://marvelstudiosnews.com/2019/04/28/avengers-endgame-completely-shatters-box-office-records-with-350m-domestic-and-over-1-2b-worldwide-opening/.

23. Holmes, Linda. “The Record-Breaking Box Office of ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ by the (Huge) Numbers.” NPR, April 28, 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.npr.org/2019/04/28/718031657/the-record-breaking-box-office-of-avengers-endgame-by-the-huge-numbers.

24. Fuster, Jeremy. “‘Avengers: Endgame’ has Broken 144 Box Office Records… and Counting.” The Wrap, April 28, 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.thewrap.com/avengers-endgame-144-box-office-records/.

25. Mithaiwala, Mansoor. “Every Record Avengers: Endgame has Already Broken.” Screen Rant, April 28, 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://screenrant.com/avengers-endgame-movie-records/.

26. Fuster, Jeremy. “‘Avengers: Endgame’ has Broken 144 Box Office Records… and Counting.”

27. “Marvel Cinematic Universe.” Fandom, n.d. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://marvelcinematicuniverse.fandom.com/wiki/Marvel_Cinematic_Universe.

28. Gracie_14. “Avengers: Endgame Fan Frenzy.” Christian Chat, April 24, 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://christianchat.com/miscellaneous/avengers-endgame-fan-frenzy.184661/.

29. Unplanned Official Website. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.unplannedfilm.com.

30. Bois, Paul. “EXCLUSIVE: ‘Unplanned’ Trailer #1 in the Nation on iTunes.” Daily Wire, February 14, 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.dailywire.com/news/43504/exclusive-unplanned-trailer-1-nation-itunes-paul-bois.

31. Ibid.

32. Toto, Christian. “‘Unplanned’ Perfectly Captures Culture War Fight.” Hollywood in Toto, March 31, 2019. Accessed April 1, 2019. https://www.hollywoodintoto.com/unplanned-culture-war/.

33. McClintock, Pamela. “‘Unplanned’ Box Office: Controversial Anti-Abortion Pic Surprises with Strong $6M Debut.” Hollywood Reporter, March 31, 2019. Accessed April 1, 2019. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/unplanned-box-office-anti-abortion-pic-opens-strong-6m-1198369.

34. Unplanned Movie. “Writer/Directors Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon Testify about #Unplanned Censorship.” YouTube video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55mDsrEWXCM&feature=youtu.be (accessed April 29, 2019).

35. Bond, Paul. “TV Networks Reject Ads for Anti-Abortion Movie.” Hollywood Reporter, March 29, 2019. April 1, 2019. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/networks-reject-ads-anti-abortion-movie-unplanned-1197928.

36. Newsroom. “Twitter Suspends Unplanned Movie on Opening Weekend, Users Unable to Follow.” Live Action, March 30, 2019. Accessed April 1, 2019. https://www.liveaction.org/news/twitter-suspends-unplanned-movie-account/.

37. O’Neil, Tyler. “Pro-Life Movie ‘Unplanned’ Mysteriously Loses 99K Twitter Followers Despite Box Office Win.” PJ Media, March 31, 2019. Accessed April 1, 2019. https://pjmedia.com/trending/pro-life-movie-unplanned-mysteriously-loses-99k-twitter-followers-despite-box-office-win/.

38. Newsroom. “Twitter Suspends Unplanned Movie on Opening Weekend, Users Unable to Follow.”

39. Adrienne. Twitter Post. March 31, 2019, 7:45 PM. Accessed April 1, 2019. https://twitter.com/AdrienneRoyer/status/1112546439933116416.

40. Carr, Grace. ‘Unplanned’ Abortion Movie has Zero Nudity or Sex. Gets ‘R’ Rating for Violent ‘Disturbing’ Images of Aborted Babies.” Daily Caller, February 22, 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://dailycaller.com/2019/02/22/abortion-movie-r-rated-violence/.

41. Kayser, Ben and Managing Editor. “Pro-Life Movie from GOD’S NOT DEAD Writers Receives R-Rating from MPAA.” Movieguide, n.d. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.movieguide.org/news-articles/pro-life-movie-from-gods-not-dead-writers-receives-r-rating-from-mpaa.html.

42. McClintock, Pamela. “‘Unplanned’ Box Office: Controversial Anti-Abortion Pic Surprises with Strong $6M Debut.”

43. “March 29–31, 2019 Weekend.” Box Office Mojo, n.d. Accessed April 1, 2019. https://www.boxofficemojo.com/weekend/chart/.

44. “Unplanned.” Box Office Mojo, April 28, 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=unplanned.htm.

45. “Public Opinion on Abortion.” Pew Research Center, October 15, 2018. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.pewforum.org/fact-sheet/public-opinion-on-abortion/.

46. Unplanned Movie, “Writer/Directors Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon Testify about #Unplanned Censorship.”

47. Stieber, Zachary. “‘Unplanned’ Director Says Abortion Workers Are Leaving the Industry Due to the Film.” Epoch Times, April 13, 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.theepochtimes.com/unplanned-director-says-abortion-workers-are-leaving-the-industry-due-to-the-film_2878242.html.

48. Bilger, Micaiah. “Since ‘Unplanned’ Movie Released, 94 Abortion Clinic Workers Have Said They May Quit Their Jobs.” LifeSite News, April 12, 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.lifenews.com/2019/04/12/since-unplanned-movie-released-94-abortion-clinic-workers-have-said-they-may-quit-their-jobs/.

49. McGuire, Ashley. “Most Americans Don’t Want a Standing Ovation for Abortions Until Birth. But Democrats Do.” USA Today, January 30, 2019. Accessed February 26, 2019. https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2019/01/30/new-york-abortion-law-liberal-leaders-celebration-death-life-column/2670049002/.

50. PPNYC Action Fund. Twitter Post. January 22, 2019, 1:52 PM. Accessed February 26, 2019. https://twitter.com/PPNYCAction/status/1087830306823041024.

51. “S.311 – Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.” United States Senate, January 31, 2019. Accessed February 26, 2019. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/311/text.

52. Colen, Aaron. “Senate Fails to Pass a Bill Protecting the Lives of Babies Who Survive Abortions.” The Blaze, February 25, 2019. Accessed February 26, 2019. https://www.theblaze.com/news/senate-fails-to-pass-a-bill-protecting-the-lives-of-babies-who-survive-abortions.

53. EWTN. “VA Governor Isn’t Backing Down from Comments Defending Third-Trimester Abortion – ENN 2019-02-01.” YouTube video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xD8cPgcZ3E&t=130s (accessed February 26, 2019).

54. Whitehurst, Kelvin. “Trump Addresses Va. Gov. During State of the Union, Calls for Late-Term Abortion Ban.” WDBJ 7, February 6, 2019. Accessed February 26, 2019. https://www.wdbj7.com/content/news/Trump-addresses-Virginia-Gov-in-call-for-late-term-abortion-ban-505408721.html.

55. Jennings, Scott. “Ralph Northam Should be Remembered for Advocating the Slaughtering of Deformed Babies.” USA Today, February 5, 2019. Last Updated February 5, 2019. Accessed February 26, 2019. https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2019/02/05/ralph-northam-advocating-abortion-infanticide-worse-than-blackface-column/2776498002/.