Left Behind, the film adaptation of the best-selling novel by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, was supposed to open big at the box office in the United States two weeks ago. Co-producer Peter Lalonde even said he wanted the film to be #1 at the box office. But instead, it opened at #17, grossing only $2.2 million in its first weekend, on 867 screens. In its second weekend, it scaled back to 569 screens and made significantly less money, sinking to #22; after ten days, it had grossed a mere $3.2 million in total. By comparison, The Omega Code, the last end-times movie to open across the country, grossed $2.4 million on only 304 screens in its first weekend, in October 1999; despite the fact that it was not based on a best-selling novel and had virtually no advance publicity in the secular press, The Omega Code cracked the box-office Top 10, giving it the momentum it needed to expand its release and ultimately gross $12.6 million before going to the video market and to theatres in other countries.
Left Behind, which was produced and marketed at a reported cost of $17.4 million, was already a smash hit on video; about 3 million copies have been sold on videotape and DVD since last Halloween. However, to release the film in theatres, the producers asked churches and others to sponsor the film at a cost of $3,000 per screen. Due to the fact that more than half of the money taken in at the box office goes to the theatre and the film’s distributor, Left Behind would have had to gross at least $7,000 per theatre in order for sponsors to get their investment back, according to the Left Behind Film Project website. If the film’s distribution plan had been successful, that would have translated to a total nationwide gross of over $6 million; however, it looks like the film may fall off the charts before its grosses ever reach that point. Left Behind is still set to be released in Canada March 2. A sequel is reportedly in the works.