Is Faith-Based Courageous Shaping Up to Be the Sleeper Hit of the Fall?

Here we go again: Almost three years to the day after Sherwood Pictures -- the filmmaking enterprise of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga. -- uncorked its self-funded Christian drama Fireproof to a shocking $6.8 million opening weekend, along comes the church's faith-based follow-up Courageous. And while no one should necessarily be surprised to hear that the film's early box-office estimates are strong, its potential hardly ceases to amaze.

A report from Fandango yesterday had Courageous carrying 22 percent of the site's advance weekend ticket sales -- a majority over mainstream Hollywood offerings like the new releases 50/50, What's Your Number?, Dream House and even muscular holdovers like The Lion King 3D and Moneyball. Despite the ticket retailer's notoriously self-serving data set, the brisk business across that platform and others are significant (and significantly quantifiable) enough for Sherwood and its distribution partner TriStar Pictures to issue a press release this afternoon claiming $2 million in advance ticket sales. This for a $1 million picture about cops struggling with fatherhood -- one with the bulk of its marketing limited to grassroots Christian constituencies. Well, and this trailer:

"Pre-sales numbers for Courageous more than double that of Sherwood Pictures' most recent film, Fireproof, which opened at $6.8 million and went on to gross more than $33.4 million at the box office," says the release, to which executive producer Michael Catt added: "Such great advance momentum reaffirms that the topic of fathers is universal and that Courageous touches a nerve. [...] Present or absent, fathers shape lives and we're excited to use drama, adventure, humor... to inspire men to the high adventure of full-on parenting."

Meanwhile, Sherwood associate pastor-turned-actor/filmmaker Alex Kendrick opened up a bit to Big Hollywood's Christian Toto about the church's biggest screen gamble to date:

Kendrick can point to his own family history to show how faith can break patterns which might otherwise linger for generations. His grandfather's alcoholism could have shaken his father's ability to raise a family.

"When my dad was college age he made up his mind ... this junk wasn't going to go to his kids," he says. "My two brothers and I didn't grow up in a family with all that junk there. We saw a conviction in him to guard himself and his family. My dad broke the chain."

Today's young, fatherless men don't even have pop culture examples to follow.

"There are very few shows now where the dad is an honorable man," says Kendrick, who pines for a modern version of The Cosby Show. [...]

"We're the first to admit we're a South Georgia church in a fairly rural area," he says. Church volunteers still help flesh out the cast and crew. "We didn't go to school for this, We're learning by trial and error. We want to continue improving the craft of filmmaking."

Courageous debuts Friday on roughly 1,100 screens; stay tuned for more about the film's projected opening in today's Weekend Forecast.


  • Tommy Marx says:

    Didn't we already go through this seven hundred times before with Promise Keepers and men dancing around campfires and shit? Sorry to disappoint anyone looking for easy answers, but God and pop psychology doesn't make anyone a good father - in fact, most of the time it makes them a lousy one. Being a good person makes someone a good father. You want to raise your children right? Try setting an example, not resorting to fads and mythology.

  • Alan says:

    From "Family drama Courageous is from the writers and director of Fireproof, and it's looking to target the same Christian audience that drove that movie to a $6.8 million opening at the same time in 2008. Courageous is hitting significantly more theaters, though (1,161 vs. 839), and was the top-selling new release on Fandango as of Wednesday. That tends to be indicative of a lot of demand within a concentrated subset (in this case Christians), and the movie probably won't have a huge impact on the box office this weekend."

  • John Crupper says:

    The movie "Courageous" addresses the biblical call to excellent fatherhood. While I hope this movie will encourage the men in our churches, I also know there is so much more that could be said about our most vulnerable children, especially those from fatherless homes.
    As Christians, we called to the “rest of the story”. Children who are from fatherless homes are more likely to be involved in crime, to not finish their education, to become a teen parent, and to experience long-term poverty. Today, when 40 percent of the children in our nation are growing up in fatherless homes and when over 50 percent of children growing up in poverty are from female-headed homes, the message of Courageous could not come at a better time.
    John Crupper
    National Director, Shepherding the Next Generation

  • KevyB says:

    The stupid thing about all that is the fact that the only people going to these movies are the ones being told to go from their churches, who are the ones who are supposedly telling them to be better people in the first place. So who's actually learning anything from these movies? Do they think deadbeat dads are pouring into theaters across the country to see this and then becoming great fathers? And if it's actually helping fathers within the church become better fathers, then I have to ask what the hell the churches are doing!

  • Alan says:

    So you're saying that single mothers should go out an get married because they obviously can't do the job without a man around?
    And what study are you getting your facts from, because it doesn't state a source in your link or the article you link to from your link.

  • S.T. VanAirsdale says:

    $8.8 million later...

  • michinrepose says:

    Is being "a good person" subjective then? I mean if each individual gets to determine what "good" is FOR THEM, then GOOD itself does not really exist beyond the imaginings of each person. I contend that GOOD does indeed exist, it is the person of Jesus Christ, and because He lives we can know what "good" is. With an abiding faith and through His strength we can then seek to "be good", which is an absolute, not simply moral relativism, and because this GOOD is greater than us, higher than us and an authority OVER us, our children will come to understand true authority and how to respond to it. Just thinking..........

  • michinrepose says:

    um.......the churches are ministering to and discipling sinners who have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ. As followers of Christ we are to emulate HIm and so there is always, so long as we live, room for improvement. The Cynic always says "why bother", I guess that's just the easy way out huh?

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