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Fireproof red-hot at box office

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Audiences turned out in force Sept. 26-28 for the opening week of “Fireproof,” the latest film from the makers of the 2006 surprise hit “Facing the Giants.”

Fireproof generated the second-highest average revenue in theaters this past weekend, beaten only by “Eagle Eye,” a thriller that showed in four times as many theaters and cost 160 times as much to make.

Across the country, people hungry for family friendly films packed the 839 theaters where Fireproof was showing. Attendance was boosted by churches that promoted the film to their members and in some cases bought out theaters as an outreach to their communities.

In Starke, Fla., almost 20 percent of the entire population of the city saw the movie, said Joe Fennell, executive pastor of First Baptist Church. The congregation contracted with the local theater to show Fireproof free to all comers and in three days 1,121 people attended a screening in the north Florida city.

Moviegoers came from “across the spectrum,” Fennell said. Church members brought co-workers and neighbors, and non-believers came because it was free. He said he was especially pleased to see several engaged couples in the audience.

“I think the movie will provide a good foundation for them and increase their communication. It is an encouragement for healthy marriages, too,” Fennell said.

A church staff member or volunteer was on-site for each showing and packets of evangelistic material were distributed at the end of the movie, Fennell said. One piece in the packet promoted a six-week sermon series on marriage that senior pastor Rodney Coe will begin preaching Oct. 5.

“As in many churches, we have marriages that are struggling, and this is what prompted our pastor to preach the series after the movie,” Fennell said. “We hope people will find in the movie enough truth of the Gospel and truth about typical marriage that they will think that their own marriage is worth saving.”

Ashley Nelson of Arlington, Texas, who saw the movie on opening weekend, agreed.

“This movie addresses the needs that many couples struggle with in marriage — the need to be respected, the need for communication, but ultimately, the need for Christ as the center of the marriage,” said Nelson, who is engaged to be married. “Just as [lead Fireproof characters] Caleb and Catherine realize, married couples need to understand God’s true and pure love before they can truly love their spouse.”


Kathy Steele, an assistant professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, believes Fireproof will be a great encouragement to couples in difficult marriages.

“I believe this movie can have a huge impact on marriages. It is extremely realistic and deals with problems that are real in marriages today,” Steele said. “I think one of the greatest ways this movie could strengthen marriages is that it can give hope to one partner who really wants to change the marriage, that if they change, the marriage can change.

“I think Fireproof could spark a new wave of Christians seeking to love their marital partners unconditionally, and to realize it has to be practical, everyday ways they treat each other,” Steele added. “My hope is that the neutral story of another couple, seen from the ‘inside,’ will motivate Christian couples in our churches to start seeking to be more obedient to Christ in how they respond to each other.”

Marcus W. Allen, a counselor with First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., said Fireproof sends a message “to keep working on the marriage even if your partner has given up.”

“This is the message all marriages need to hear,” Allen said. “We all need the encouragement to not give up when it seems hopeless — encouragement to just do what God says and keep loving and acting in a loving manner no matter what the response is from the other side.”

Members of Rapid Valley Baptist Church in Rapid City, S.D., attended the movie in lieu of their Sept. 27 worship service, according to pastor John Little.

“One of our area Christian businessmen became so excited about the film [during a preview for community leaders] that he worked with a local doctor to provide tickets for all active military, firemen, policemen and first responders in the area,” Little said. “Our church gave away tickets to folks we identified through our block parties and survey work.”


When Pam Weitzel of New Hope Community Church in Baltimore, Md., heard Fireproof was coming out, she and her husband Mark helped spearhead a “Date Night” in their church. They were pleased to see many of their church friends in the theater on opening night.

Many couples take their marriages for granted, Mark Weitzel said, and Fireproof prodded him to think differently about his wife.

“I thought it was an awesome movie. It was good for marriages,” Weitzel said. “We need to act as ‘first date’ sweethearts. I want to continually treat my wife as if we are courting again … even if we are 75.”

Bart Walker, pastor of Kingsville Baptist Church in Ball, La., believes the film can help congregations reach people who don’t attend church.

“The chief thing Fireproof is doing for us is giving a talking point for marriage and families,” Walker said. “It shows how hard marriage really is. It shows the struggle for marriages to be mended. It takes supernatural intervention. And it shows no marriage is beyond repair.

Fireproof speaks volumes about Christ’s power to change lives, Walker added.

“The world’s view of the veracity of the Gospel is tied to the world’s view of God’s transforming power in His followers,” he said. “And since marriage is a living illustration of Christ and the church, then healthy marriages present a healthy picture of Christ and the church.”

The movie’s focus on marriage also speaks to a hot-button topic on the national scene, said Jerry Pounds Sr., professor of discipleship at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

“While our society has been attempting to redefine gender, roles, marriage and family, we are grateful for … a national venue for a discussion of divorce and the biblical message of covenant marriage,” Pounds said. “The movie is excellent, well worth seeing, and is a great discussion starter for a marriage retreat or a Bible study on marriage or a small discipleship group.”
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor for Baptist Press. With reporting from Shannon Baker, Joni Hannigan, Sharon Mager, Gary Myers, Michelle Myers, Carolyn Nichols and Karen Willoughby.

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