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.