MercyMe's 'I Can Only Imagine' Shines on Christian Charts After Movie Premiere

David Molnar


The 1999 original ranks at No. 2 on Hot Christian Songs, while the new "Movie Session" version climbs to No. 29.

Sparked by the opening of the movie I Can Only Imagine, which finished third at the North American box office over the weekend of March 16-18 with $17 million, the namesake 1999 song by MercyMe that inspired the film surges on Billboard's Christian charts.

Written by MercyMe frontman Bart Millard, who is portrayed onscreen by J. Michael Finley, with Dennis Quaid as his father, the original version of "Imagine" flies onto the Hot Christian Songs chart (dated March 24), which blends streaming, airplay and sales data, at No. 2.

"Imagine" dominated Christian radio in 2001 (prior to the launch of Hot Christian Songs). A crossover hit, the ballad rose to No. 5 on Adult Contemporary in 2003.

The original "Imagine" enters Hot Christian Songs on the strength of 10,000 downloads sold (up 67 percent) in the week ending March 15, according to Nielsen Music, as it rises 3-1 on Christian Digital Song Sales; the ascent marks the song's third week at No. 1 in its 425th week on the chart, the longest run of any song since the survey's 2010 start. It also boasts 2.3 million U.S. streams (up 9 percent).

Meanwhile, the new "I Can Only Imagine (The Movie Session)" soars by 79 percent to 1.3 million audience impressions, and darts 35-27 on Christian Airplay and 35-29 on Hot Christian Songs.

'ROOM' AT THE TOP: On Top Gospel Albums, Jonathan McReynolds posts his second No. 1, as Make Room opens with 7,000 equivalent album units (6,000 in traditional album sales). His Life Music: Stage Two debuted atop the chart dated Oct. 10, 2015, and ruled for four weeks.


The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to

To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.