GREENVILLE, S.C. (KT) - Kentuckian Gary Gentry feels passionately about his vital role in promoting the new Christian movie, “Unplanned,” which opened in more than 1,000 theaters on March 29.
He is passionate because he believes in the message of the movie, and because it hits so close to his own life experience.
The film opened with the second-highest gross revenues per theater, according to Box Office Mojo, who projected Friday ticket sales of nearly $2,800 per theater, meaning the pro-life movie trailed only Dumbo in per-theater sales and finished fourth in total sales for the opening night, grossing $2,960,000.
Ticket sales are important to Gentry. His company, Premiere Productions, is the largest Christian promotion company in the nation. They promote more than 600 Christian concerts and events annually. Because of his company’s experience, Gentry was invited to attend the filming of “Unplanned” in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and meet with the film’s directors and producers.
“They liked what they knew about our company,” Gentry said, “and we liked the message of this important movie. After we spent time together, they asked us to take on the challenge of promoting their film to the Christian marketplace.”
Gentry and his team have been doing just that for several months and, so far, are pleased with the number of people who are seeing the movie.
The film is based on the true story of Abby Johnson who was a rising star in the corporate culture of Planned Parenthood. She resigned and became a pro-life advocate after witnessing an abortion. The movie is graphic in depicting what happens during an abortion—so graphic that it received an R-rating. “The directors could have appealed the R-rating,” Gentry explained, “but they would have had to water down the movie and they were committed to showing, for the first time in a movie format, what actually happens during an abortion. I am glad they stood their ground.”
The co-directors and co-writers, Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon, are experienced Christian filmmakers. In addition to “Unplanned,” their credits include “God is Not Dead,” and “God is Not Dead 2.”
This movie, however, is different because it tackles a highly political issue that remains one of the most divisive in the nation. “When I met with the directors, it was amazing to me how impactful this movie could be and how powerfully God had been involved in the making of it,” Gentry said.
“The major media have ignored or blocked coverage of this movie,” Gentry said. “Major networks and media outlets won’t run ads for it.” While the lack of mainstream media support makes Gentry’s job challenging, he and his team have been pushing the movie for months to Christian media including radio networks, and through social media, direct mail and direct contact with churches.
“Our goal is to make sure that Christians really know what happens during an abortion. Planned Parenthood and others want everyone to think this is about a woman’s reproductive rights while they perform a ton of abortions,” Gentry said. “These pro-choice organizations have a lot of clout with the media.”
As a result, Gentry’s job in promoting the movie is not an easy one. However, he does see God working through the film in some unique ways.
“It is amazing how passionate people are about getting this story out,” he said. “There has been an incredible ground swell of people actively promoting this film and that has created an amazing buzz resulting in early reports of theaters being packed on opening night.”
Gentry has big hopes for the movie he is promoting. “Number one, my hope is that tens of thousands of babies lives will be saved. Then I pray people’s eyes will be opened and their hearts changed as they learn more about abortion. I’d like to see people move from pro-choice to pro-life and would love to see abortion either banned or highly restricted.”
At least part of Gentry’s passion for this story comes from his own life experience. “I was born to an unmarried 15-year-old farm girl in Lexington, Kentucky, and was placed in an orphanage.” Gentry was adopted when he was nine months old by a Christian couple from Ashland, “who I consider to be my parents.” Gentry believes that had abortion been readily available and legal at the time of his birth, then he very likely would never have been born.
“There are so many people who want to adopt but find it expensive and difficult,” he said, adding, “hopefully this movie will encourage others to save lives by offering unwanted children up for adoption to parents who will love and nurture them the way my parents did me.”
Gentry is a 1967 graduate of Paul G. Blazer High School in Ashland where he grew up on Ranch Road and loving the Kentucky Wildcats. He attended Bethany Nazarene College in Oklahoma for two years before transferring to Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, where he received bachelor and masters degrees in psychology. In 1977 he accepted a position with the Greenville County, South Carolina, school system as a counselor and served as part-time minister of music at his church.
“While I was serving as minister of music, I did a couple of concerts and thought, ‘I can really do this.’ Twelve years or so later, Roy Morgan of North Carolina, and I formed our company. That was 25 years ago. We have been richly blessed.”
Gentry and his wife, Deborah, have been married 50 years, have two grown daughters and five grandchildren. And while he is busy promoting this important film and racing between airports, he also found time to watch Kentucky’s victory over Houston the night the film premiered.
TOM STULTZ is a Kentucky native and president of JMI Sports and lives in Greenville, South Carolina.