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‘Fireproof’ still a box office hit

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–In its second week at the box office, “Fireproof” topped $12 million in total receipts and stayed among the top five movies in average theater revenue.

Fireproof averaged $4,776 in 852 theaters, according to boxofficemojo.com, placing it at No. 5 in average revenue per theater. The movie pulled in just over $4 million overall, claiming the No. 8 spot in total weekend revenue.

The only movie that brought in significantly better per-theater revenue was “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,” which hit its opening weekend in 3,215 venues, averaging $9,020 per theater and grossing $29 million.

The No. 2 movie in average revenue this past weekend, “Eagle Eye,” scored only $258 more per theater than Fireproof. While Eagle Eye also was in its second week at the box office, “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” was opening at 2,421 venues and ranked third in weekend gross but pulled in only $181 more per theater than Fireproof.

In its opening weekend, Fireproof pulled in an average of $7,764 in each of 839 theaters and placed fourth in gross revenue with $6.5 million. Though the makers of Fireproof are not in it for the money and funnel the proceeds back into charitable work, box office receipts are a measure of the film’s popularity with the American public.

Fireproof also continues to garner significant national media exposure, including articles by Time magazine and The New York Times as well as a spot on ABC’s World News Tonight.

ABCNews.com, which ran a story Oct. 3 with the headline “‘Fireproof’ Shows Christian Movies Sell,” noted the quandary Hollywood faces trying to figure out how a film that was made for $500,000, relied on word of mouth instead of traditional advertising and used a volunteer cast could possibly open at No. 4 in the country and take in more than $6 million in ticket sales during the first week.

“The film exceeded even the filmmakers’ expectations,” the ABC article said. “They were hoping to make $3 million or $4 million and crack the top 10 when the film opened last weekend. Instead, they topped the Coen Brothers’ ‘Burn After Reading,’ with Brad Pitt and George Clooney, in its third week, and Spike Lee’s ‘Miracle at St. Anna,’ which made only $3.5 million in its opening weekend.”

Fireproof, starring Kirk Cameron as Caleb Holt, follows a fireman as he works to save his marriage from the brink of divorce. The film is a product of Sherwood Pictures, a ministry of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga.

“We tried to make a movie that speaks to your middle-American family and couple facing all the common issues in marriage,” Alex Kendrick, director of Fireproof, told ABC. “Hollywood is good at reflecting the values and lifestyles of people in California and New York. But there are so many of us who have a standard of morality and faith that is rarely reflected in films coming out of Hollywood.”

Jim McBride, the church’s executive pastor, told ABC that Sherwood Pictures was not seeking to win an Oscar with the film but to win people’s hearts.

“We’re in this for the ministry aspect of it,” McBride said.

Cameron told ABC he has received e-mails from couples who were on the verge of separation but then saw Fireproof and renewed their marriage vows. One man, Cameron said, stood up in the theater after the film and said, “I am Caleb Holt, and I need 10 men to pray for me and my marriage.” About 20 men walked over, he said.

Kendrick, who made the film with his brother Stephen, told Time magazine they wanted to create a product that didn’t go along with Hollywood’s out-of-touch fictional reality.

“Hollywood is gifted at high production quality and acting,” Kendrick said. “But their morals and life perspectives are so different from the rest of us. New York and California seem to have one type of culture and then there’s the rest of America. We’re trying to make movies that speak to what we believe the American family struggles with — communication, financing, intimacy.”

The Time article Oct. 3 also marveled over the film’s low budget and high level of success, noting that Fireproof speaks “to an audience that has often eluded studios — devout Christians.” It also said that on Oct. 10, Fireproof’s distributor will add another 200 theaters to the movie’s initial 850-threater run.

Also enjoying popularity is a book called “The Love Dare,” which started as a plot device for the film but had reached No. 8 on Amazon’s best-seller list by Oct. 6. The Kendrick brothers wrote the book, and it was rushed through printing in time for a simultaneous release with the film after people who attended screenings asked where they could get a copy of it.

“So often movies that try to incorporate a message of faith are so cheesy, and I’ve been in some of those cheesy movies,” Cameron told Time. “Fireproof isn’t that.” Instead of a fee for acting in the film, Cameron accepted a donation to his children’s charity, Camp Firefly.

An article by The New York Times Oct. 6 featured Michael Catt, pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church and an executive producer of the film, who said he supported the Kendrick brothers’ idea for a movie ministry at the church because too often Christians are critical of Hollywood without adding something positive.

“It’s easy to point fingers,” Catt told The Times, “but what we need to be doing is offering realistic alternatives.” Catt’s daughter Erin Bethea co-starred as Catherine Holt, Caleb’s wife, the article noted.

Cameron told The Times his faith helped him survive Hollywood.

“As a teen idol who makes it to 37 without being a crack-smoking transvestite stuck in a drug-rehab center over and over, I’d say, ‘Wow, those values have served me pretty well,'” he said.

Alex Kendrick said he and his brother plan to take some time off to focus on church ministries and their families for the next few months now that their hit movie is in theaters. After that, they’ll consider their next script.

“We’re not trained and smart enough to make successful movies and write best-selling books,” Kendrick told The Times. “The only way that this could happen is if after we prayed, God really answered those prayers.”
Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Erin Roach with reporting by Mark Kelly, an assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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