I Can Only Imagine tells the emotional backstory of the song with the same name by Christian rock band MercyMe.
Lead singer, Bart Millard wrote the song after losing his father as a teen.
He experienced a difficult upbringing brought on by his mother's desertion and father's abuse.
He told USA Today that part of the song's appeal was that it - instead of "shoving the Bible down people's throats" - used God to simply question the nature of death.
He explained: "I'm asking the same question many people have wondered, whether you go to church or not, like, 'ok, God, if this turns out to be real, if we die and we get (to heaven), how am I going to respond?'
"There's no answers in that song, it's all questions."
The Texas-based group released the song in 2001 and it went on to sell 2.5 million copies around the world. Its popularity peaked in the aftermath of the 11th September terrorist attacks in the US.
The film, which is directed by Andrew Erwin and Jon Erwin, is being released in 1,626 theatres.
Early tracking by BoxOffice Pro suggests the movie could follow in the song's successful footsteps as its heading for a strong opening - near the $1.5 million mark - and it could end its run with $3 million or more.
Stay up to date with the latest news stories from a Christian perspective. Sign up to our daily newsletter and receive more stories like this straight to your inbox every morning.