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iW BOT | "Fireproof" Finds Followers While "Ones" Isn't So Lucky

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire September 29, 2008 at 12:28PM

Alex Kendrick's Christian drama "Fireproof" shocked the box office this weekend. On 839 screens, the IDP/Samuel Goldwyn Films release grossed $6,804,764, the second-highest (after "Hannah Montana") for any film released under 1,000 screens in 2008. And while Iraq war-themed films have always found the box office a challenge, Neil Burger's "The Lucky Ones" was particularly disastrous, averaging just $431 on 425 screens. On a sole screen at New York's IFC Center, Matt Wolf's "Wild Combination" actually led the iW BOT - which is ranked by per-theater average - grossing an impressive $11,850.
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Alex Kendrick's Christian drama "Fireproof" shocked the box office this weekend. On 839 screens, the IDP/Samuel Goldwyn Films release grossed $6,804,764, the second-highest (after "Hannah Montana") for any film released under 1,000 screens in 2008. And while Iraq war-themed films have always found the box office a challenge, Neil Burger's "The Lucky Ones" was particularly disastrous, averaging just $431 on 425 screens. On a sole screen at New York's IFC Center, Matt Wolf's "Wild Combination" actually led the iW BOT - which is ranked by per-theater average - grossing an impressive $11,850.

The iWBOT is based on per-theater averages reported by Rentrak Theatrical, the complete indieWIRE BOT is available at indieWIRE.com.

Kirk Cameron, Box Office King?

With an $8,111 average, IDP/Samuel Goldwyn's release of "Fireproof," the latest film to come from Sherwood Pictures, the movie-making ministry of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, has already proven very profitable. With a reported budget of just $500,000, the film grossed $6,804,764 on 839 screens. Its average was greater than fellow new releases Fox Searchlight's "Choke," ($3,033) Magnolia's "Humboldt County" ($2,881) and Lionsgate's "The Lucky Ones" ($431) combined. Even in comparison to previous Christian-themed films, it has already outgrossed Cameron's previous highest grosser, 2001's "Left Behind," which grossed $4,224,065, and 2006's Christian football drama, "Facing The Giants" (also directed by Kendrick and released by IDP), which grossed $10,178,331, a number "Fireproof" could easily double.

The film, with the tagline "Never Leave Your Partner Behind," follows a firefighter (Cameron) whose father pleads with him not to leave his wife and instead take "The Love Dare," which is a 40-day Christian plan to save a marriage. The film's extensive website markets to the Christian community through various methods, including blog widgets, forums to tell your own marital stories, and details on how to get your own copy of "The Love Dare" book.

An article in The Christian Post suggests that the marketing has been very successful. It notes that to bring the movie to their cities, some supporters have gone "as far as buying up to thousands of advanced tickets" which are later "sold or given away." One example given was Fargo, North Dakota resident Penny Crowder, who was noted as alone purchasing 1,000 tickets the minimum required to bring it to her town.

"I've known so many people this year that have had marital problems," Crowder was cited as telling the 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.'" For IDP/Samuel Goldwyn, it was an investment in Christian culture that has obviously paid off.

Un-"Lucky Ones"

Neil Burger's "The Lucky Ones" found itself with the very unfortunate distinction of having the lowest opening per-theatre average of any of the recent Iraq-themed box office failures. The film, which stars Tim Robbins, Rachel McAdams and Michael Pena as three soldiers discharged back to the United States who find themselves on a joint road trip, grossed just $183,088 on 425 screens, averaging just $431 for Lionsgate.

That average is significantly lower than previous Iraq-themed films like Kimberly Peirce's "Stop-Loss" (averaged $3,528 on 1,291 screens), Paul Haggis' "In The Valley of Elah" ($14,839 on 9 screens), James C. Strouse's "Grace is Gone" ($3,470 on 4 screens) and even Brian DePalma's "Redacted" ($1,708 screens). And though it had a lower per screen average than Irvin Winkler's "Home on the Brave," it has already outgrossed that film's $51,708 final take.

"Combination" Tops Chart

While it certainly was not "The Lucky Ones," the iW BOT's overall leader was also not "Fireproof" either, despite its best efforts. On considerably less screens, both Saul Gibb's "The Duchess" and Matt Wolf's documentary "Wild Combination" topped "Fireproof"'s per theater average. Paramount Vantage's "Duchess" expanded to 55 screens and grossed a promising $563,075 in its second weekend, for an average of $10,238. That placed the Keira Knightley starrer in the runner-up slot next to "Combination," which opened on one screen at New York's IFC Center. The Plexifilm release, which celebrates Arthur Russell, an important figure from New York's downtown music scene of the 1970s and 1980s, grossed $11,850 to top the iW BOT.

"We had a lot of confidence that the film would do well, and we're glad that it's reaching more than just die-hard music aficionados," said Plexifilm's Gary Hustwit in an interview with indieWIRE. "To be able to expose more people to music like Arthur Russell's, and to introduce a great new filmmaker like Matt Wolf - it's exactly why we keep doing what we do."

Next weekend sees a massive amount of specialty releases eyeing to dethrone "Combination," including Larry Charles' "Religulous," Jonathan Demme's "Rachel Getting Married" and Lance Hammer's "Ballast."

indieWIRE:BOT tracks independent/specialty releases compiled from Rentrak Theatrical, which collects studio reported data as well as box-office figures from North American theatre locations. To be included in the indieWIRE Box Office Chart, distributors must submit information about their films to Rentrak at studiogrosses@rentrak.com by the end of the day each Monday.