Grass-roots campaign helps ‘Fireproof’ light up the box office
Stoking more interest in faith-based films, Fireproof—the latest Christian drama from the church-based moviemakers who scored a surprise hit two years ago with Facing the Giants—made a big splash at the box office.
And as a book that was a focal point of the movie shot onto the best-seller lists, several songs used in the film racked up digital sales and received plenty of airplay on Christian radio.
Bolstered by grass-roots support and bulk ticket purchases from churchgoers as well as promotion by Christian retailers, Fireproof debuted at No. 4 the weekend of Sept. 26 with $6.5 million total receipts in just 839 theaters nationwide.
Variety called Fireproof “the biggest surprise” of that weekend’s box office, noting that the movie—starring Kirk Cameron as a firefighter who turns to God to help save his marriage—saw the strongest opening among recent faith-based films. Billy: The Early Years—about the start of Billy Graham’s ministry—was released Oct. 9, while House—based on the thriller by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker—was to open Nov. 7.
Fireproof expanded to more than 1,000 theaters, and at press time had made $20.7 million, from a modest $500,000 budget. The movie, which had an all-volunteer, 1,200-person cast and crew, finished in the top 10 during its first three weeks.
Kris Fuhr, vice president of marketing for Provident Films, which released Fireproof with Sherwood Pictures, told Christian Retailing that the film’s fourth place premiere “exceeded our expectations.”
Fuhr noted that Christian retailers “came alongside of us for the theatrical release.”
“They went above and beyond and stepped up to promote the movie,” she said. “It’s been phenomenal. We’re so thrilled that retailers hosted screenings, (mentioned) the movie in their catalogs, sent out e-blasts and put posters in their stores. They have been part of the process.”
Rodney Redmond, owner of the Sanctuary Christian Store in Columbus, Ga., bought 500 tickets for two showings during the opening weekend of Fireproof. He came up with the idea after viewing a screening of the film in Nashville in June.
“I was so overwhelmed with the power and potential of this tool to heal and strengthen marriages that I wanted to find a tangible way to support it,” Redmond told Christian Retailing. “I also mailed churches in my community, asking pastors to show the trailer, promote the movie from the pulpit and encourage their congregations to support Fireproof. They responded, and 12 screens were sold out opening weekend, and we used all 500 tickets.”
The Love Dare (B&H Books/B&H Publishing Group)—a marriage book written by the film’s co-producing brothers Stephen and Alex Kendrick, who directed Facing the Giants and Fireproof—was Sanctuary’s “No. 1 best-seller year-to-date” despite being released in late September, Redmond said. The Love Dare—which reached No. 1 on The New York Times Paperback Advice best-seller list—has 600,000 copies in print and was in its fifth printing.
Meanwhile, three Provident Label Group artists’ songs featured in the film—“While I’m Waiting” (John Waller), “Love Is Not a Fight” (Warren Barfield) and “Slow Fade” (Casting Crowns)—“saw an increase in radio airplay” following the release of Fireproof, said Vice President of Sales Jimmy Wheeler. Prominently featured in the movie, “While I’m Waiting” reached No. 3 on iTunes’ Christian song chart.
Gary Weyel, marketing and communications strategist for The Parable Group, told Christian Retailing that Parable “heavily” promoted Fireproof and other related products with an ad in its October catalog.
“Sales have been strong for Fireproof-related products,” said Weyel, noting that The Love Dare was Parable’s top-selling item last month. “We anticipate demand to continue through the holiday season and expect the DVD to be a top seller.”
The DVD release of Fireproof is scheduled for Jan. 27, 2009, to coincide with Valentine’s Day, with a “legacy” special edition of The Love Dare to release around the same time.
David Coggins, senior buyer of books and Bibles for Berean Christian Stores, told Christian Retailing that the 25-store chain expects “great sales” from the film when it releases on DVD.
“We have prime in-store positioning for the movie tie-in books,” he said. “We also had feature spots in our fall catalog promoting the movie. The Love Dare and the curriculum products have both sold very well.”
Eric Abel—vice president of marketing for Outreach Inc., which released “Fireproof Your Marriage,” a curriculum designed for married couples and small groups that features video clips from Fireproof—said the products were “breaking records.”
“Not since The Passion of The Christ have we seen such an enthusiasm for a film among pastors,” he told . “Retailers are getting behind it too. … We’re finding that for many (Christian stores), it’s not just about making money. It’s about helping spread the word for godly marriages. … Healthy marriages are critical to Christian retailers’ future success.”