'I Can Only Imagine' stuns box office opening weekend, beats 'A Wrinkle in Time'

"I Can Only Imagine," the faith-based movie starring Dennis Quaid and J. Michael Finley, emerged as the biggest winner at the box office over the weekend, as it opened strong with $17.1 million from an original projection of $6 million only and beat Disney's Oprah Winfrey movie "A Wrinkle in Time."

REUTERS/Mario AnzuoniDennis Quaid stars in the faith-based film "I Can Only Imagine," which surprised at the box office.

The film is based on the life of Bart Millard, the lead singer of the Christian music group MercyMe, and his relationship with his abusive father who turned his life around when he found God after a cancer diagnosis. It's a story of hope, reconciliation, forgiveness and redemption.

"We knew that it was going to do well but we never expected a $17 million opening," Roadside Attractions' Howard Cohen told reporters.

Before the film debuted in the weekend, its trailer garnered over 130 million views and distributors logged $1.6 million in pre-ticket sales. The story also received an A+ CinemaScore grade.

Viewers could relate to "I Can Only Imagine" well. On the film's official Facebook page, thousands of users flooded the comments with their own stories of loss, struggles and finding God.

The first weekend of "I Can Only Imagine" in theaters eclipsed the second weekend of another faith-based film, Disney's "A Wrinkle in Time." The film, which stars Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling, grossed a little over $16 million, but dropped to 50 percent of its box office returns since its debut on March 9.

Overall, "I Can Only Imagine" ranked third in the box office after "Black Panther" ($27 million) and the debut of the latest "Tomb Raider" installment ($23.5 million). The movie's title is the name of group's song that became the all time best selling Christian single nearly two decades ago. Brothers Andrew and Jon Erwin directed "I Can Only Imagine."

"God's hand has been on this song and on this story from the beginning. We are delighted to see a story about forgiveness and redemption connect with so many people," Andrew told The Christian Post.