“Fireproof” brought people to the theaters its opening weekend Sept. 26-28.
The latest offering from the makers of “Facing the Giants,” also a surprise at the box office in 2006, generated the second-highest average revenue in theaters over the weekend.
It opened in fourth place to No. 1 “Eagle Eye” ($29.1 million), No. 2 “Nights in Rodanthe” ($13.4 million), No. 3 “Lakeview Terrace” ($6.9 million). The film brought in $6.8 million. “Fireproof” was shown in 839 theaters across the country. “Eagle Eye,” a Big-Brother style thriller, was shown in four times as many theaters and cost 160 times as much to make.
Churches helped boost attendance by promoting the film to their members and the community.
Members of First Baptist Church (FBC) in Starke, Fla., invited friends and neighbors and took care of the bill for the 1,121 people, almost 20 percent of the city’s population.
Joe Fennell, executive pastor, said moviegoers covered “across the spectrum,” including several engaged couples.
"I think the movie will provide a good foundation for them and increase their communication. It is an encouragement for healthy marriages, too," Fennell said.
“Fireproof,” which follows the life of a firefighter (Kirk Cameron), deals with struggles of marriage. Cameron’s character is challenged to take a 40-day challenge, “The Love Dare,” in order to salvage his failing marriage.
For FBC, Starke, it was an opportunity to reach out to hurting people within their church and beyond the church walls. At each showing, a staff member or volunteer was on-site to distribute a packet of evangelistic material.
"As in many churches, we have marriages that are struggling, and this is what prompted our pastor to preach the series after the movie," Fennell said in a Baptist Press article. "We hope people will find in the movie enough truth of the Gospel and truth about typical marriage that they will think that their own marriage is worth saving."
One piece promoted an upcoming sermon series on marriage.
"This movie addresses the needs that many couples struggle with in marriage — the need to be respected, the need for communication, but ultimately, the need for Christ as the center of the marriage," said Ashley Nelson, who is engaged to be married. "Just as (lead Fireproof characters) Caleb and Catherine realize, married couples need to understand God's true and pure love before they can truly love their spouse."
Nelson of Arlington, Texas, saw the movie on opening weekend.
An assistant professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Kathy Steele said the movie can be an encouragement to those in difficult marriages.
"I believe this movie can have a huge impact on marriages. It is extremely realistic and deals with problems that are real in marriages today," Steele said. "I think one of the greatest ways this movie could strengthen marriages is that it can give hope to one partner who really wants to change the marriage, that if they change, the marriage can change.
"I think Fireproof could spark a new wave of Christians seeking to love their marital partners unconditionally, and to realize it has to be practical, everyday ways they treat each other," Steele said. "My hope is that the neutral story of another couple, seen from the 'inside,' will motivate Christian couples in our churches to start seeking to be more obedient to Christ in how they respond to each other."
Rounding out the top 10: No. 5, “Burn After Reading” ($6.2 million), No. 6, “Igor” ($5.4 million), No. 7, “My Best Friend’s Girl” ($3.9 million), No. 8, “Righteous Kill” ($3.7 million), No. 9, “Miracle at St Anna” ($3.5 million), and No. 10, “The Family that Preys” ($3.1 million).
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Several wire reports, including Baptist Press, were used in creating this report.)