EDITORS’ NOTE: This story is part of a series of Baptist Press stories about Fireproof, which hits theaters Sept. 26. To read how churches can get involved click here. To read an overview about the movie click here. To read reviews of the movie click here and here. Stories about movie volunteers are available here and here. Finally, a story about the director and producer is available here.
FARGO, N.D. (BP)–The 230-mile drive from Fargo, N.D., to Minneapolis, Minn., takes about three and a half hours — not a bad distance for a vacation or a weekend getaway, but a bit too long of a drive to, say, watch a movie.
But that’s the situation Penny Crowder of Fargo found herself in in recent weeks when she contemplated how — and where — she was going to watch the Sept. 26 opening of “Fireproof,” the latest release from the makers of the 2006 surprise hit “Facing the Giants.”
She says she would have driven to Minneapolis — after all, she was deeply moved by Facing the Giants and the story of the congregation, Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., that filmed it — but she wanted to see it closer to home, and she wanted her friends and the people of Fargo to watch it, too.
So Crowder, after much prayer, pledged $6,500 of her own money to bring it to her city. That large chunk of change allowed her to purchase 1,000 tickets — the minimum required to bring it to her town — at a discount of $6.50 each. Crowder, an insurance agent, now is in charge of selling them to recoup her costs as well as to raise money for World Vision Experience, a worldwide AIDS ministry. (She’s re-selling them for $8, the normal price of a ticket.) Thus far, she’s had a great response.
Fireproof (rated PG for thematic elements) tells the story of a troubled marriage that is headed for divorce and how the husband — a firefighter played by Kirk Cameron — tries to save it. It’s been screened for Christian leaders all summer, often to standing ovations, and has received positive reviews, many of which say the newest film is better than its predecessor. Fireproof had a budget five times that of Facing the Giants.
“I’ve known so many people this year that have had marital problems,” Crowder told Baptist Press. “I personally am single and have never been married. But of course I have a lot of married friends, and I have seen the challenges, and I just thought, ‘This is an investment in my friends,’ and if I can’t sell 1,000 tickets in the Fargo area — I’m an insurance agent, for goodness sakes ….”
The Fargo theater owner was impressed enough by the local and nationwide buzz behind the film that he decided to keep Fireproof in town for the entire week, and not just for the one night that Crowder purchased.
“It’s not about me. It’s a God thing,” said Crowder, who attends Atonement Lutheran Church in Fargo, N.D. “God is the one that planted a seed. He’s the one that made me sign my name on the line. And He has made this thing spread like wildfire. I’m getting e-mails and calls [about movie tickets] from people I don’t know, from towns I don’t know. There’s a group who is taking a bus an hour away from here and bringing a busload of people.”
Amazingly, Crowder made her commitment without even seeing a screening of the film. But the movie — even though it hasn’t opened — already has made an impact in Fargo. Crowder said she knows of one couple in her area who was considering a divorce, but after watching the Fireproof trailer decided to see if they can work things out.
“If you get that from a trailer, I can’t imagine the power of the film,” she said.
Facing the Giants was successful in large measure because churches got behind the movie and supported it on opening weekend, giving it a boost and allowing it to stay in theaters for multiple weeks, as well as to spread to other cities.
“Sept. 26 is huge. That opening weekend determines how it spreads,” said Michael Catt, executive producer of the film and senior pastor of Sherwood Baptist. “With Facing the Giants … we started in 400 theaters and ended up in over 1,000, and a lot of that was based on what happened the first weekend, because it let people know this is a legitimate film. The key to that was churches, the key to that was pastors standing up in their pulpits and saying, ‘We gripe about Hollywood. Here’s something positive. It’s a film we can go to and support.'”
Leaders of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Focus on the Family and FamilyLife are urging their constituents to see the film.
Following are several ways churches can use the movie and help promote it:
— Buying all the tickets for a particular showing. In many such instances, theater owners will allow pastors and church leaders to address the audience before and after the movie if they have purchased all the tickets. (For information, visit FireproofTheMovie.com and click on “Take Action.” Additional resources are available at FireproofMyMarriage.com.)
— Offering babysitting on a particular night — promoting it as a date night — to allow couples with small children to go see the movie.
— Planning a sermon/sermon series on marriage to coincide with the film’s release.
— Having Christian couples invite other couples to see the movie together.
— Giving movie tickets to local firefighters and encouraging them to take their spouses.
— Showing the movie’s trailer to church members. (A link for a free download is available through the FireproofMyMarriage.com website. Click on “Churches,” and then click “Click Here for Fireproof Church Campaign Resources and Information.” Lastly, click on the “Click Here to Download Clips from the Movie” button. A free teaser trailer is at the bottom.)
— Placing Fireproof icons on the church’s website. (They can be downloaded at FireproofTheMovie.com. Click on “Fireproof Widgets and Tools.”)
— Purchasing copies of “The Love Dare” book — as seen in the movie — and giving it to church members. Visit LoveDareBook.com.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. For those in the Fargo, N.D., area, Penny Crowder can be e-mailed at [email protected].