On August 31, the Boston Herald discusses how “How ‘War Room’ became a Biblical box office smash…” over the weekend. The Herald reports, “…thanks to low-budget hits like ‘Fireproof” and ‘Courageous,’ the brothers have transformed themselves into Steven Spielbergs of Christian cinema. Their names above the title are enough to open movies that are firmly pitched to the faithful…’War Room,”… stunned box office watchers by nearly dethroning “Straight Outta Compton” as the weekend’s highest-grossing domestic release with its $11 million debut. That’s particularly impressive given that the religious drama was playing on a third of the number of screens as the N.W.A biopic….”
Some Hollywood critics have been tough on the Kendrick Brothers movies, including “War Room” that has been produced with their new Kendrick Brothers Productions company, Provident Films, AFFIRM Films, TriStar Pictures, and Sony Pictures. However, Alex Kendrick tells the Herald, “Critics in Hollywood are rough with us…They don’t understand why we make our movies or our worldview. But our target audience gets them and that’s who we want to draw closer to a walk with God.”
“War Room,” a story that focuses on the power of prayer to save a disintegrating marriage, has been produced for a modest $3 million. It may become, however, the Kendrick brothers’ biggest hit, as it rivals the $34.5 million brought in by “Courageous” and the $33.5 million from “Fireproof.” It also gives Sony ongoing success with the “faith-based” genre that Sony has experienced with “Soul Surfer” and “Heaven is for Real.” The critics may have laughed at Kendrick Brothers movies, but the Kendrick Brothers can laugh all the way to the bank. But much more importantly, they are rejoicing in the reach of their movies to encourage their viewers in their faith.
‘War Room’ has a dominantly African-American cast. “When we were working on the plot it just seemed more powerful and passionate when told through the perspective of African-Americans,” said Alex Kendrick. “I’m not sure it would have been as heart-grabbing if we hadn’t done that.” The film, therefore, has wide ethnic appeal that especially has drawn black and white moviegoers. African-Americans are more spiritually faithful than the U.S. population as a whole. Nearly 90% of African-Americans belong to Christian churches. Six out of ten are members of historically black protestant churches and 15% are members of evangelical churches, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center. The opening weekend crowd was 36% African-American and 42% Caucasian, according to exit data.
The Kendrick Brothers have built a strong, solid, growing community of supporters with their ever-improving movies: “Flywheel” in 2003, “Facing the Giants” in 2006, “Fireproof” in 2008, and “Courageous” in 2011. A wide range of churches and people of faith who value redemptive, inspiring, hopeful content in movies have bought out theater showings, as they have for many other redemptive movies. Although some elements of the Kendrick Brothers’ movies still need some improvement, their wide and diverse range of supporters are growing and grateful for the improvements in performances along with good, redemptive, family-values content.
The Kendrick Brothers like many other independent, faith-based producers of successful movies in theaters, on DVD, and streaming have gathered support through massive grassroots efforts, especially on social media. The “War Room” Facebook page, where regular updates and behind-the-scenes videos have been posted, has over a half a million fans. The Kendrick Brothers also have sent prepared packets to churches that have included materials that could be incorporated into sermons prior to the film’s release.
“For the Kendricks, the dialogue is ongoing,” said Rory Bruer, Sony’s head of distribution. “The word gets out there and people are talking about the movie for many months before it opens. It all results in a cool crescendo,” he has stated.
“War Room” is part of the growing Renaissance of artistry, Reformation of content, and box office success in faith-based movies such as “God’s Not Dead” and “Heaven is for Real” that have honored and respected the faith-based, movie-going audiences. When Hollywood studios have tried to use classic Biblical stories and have departed from the scriptural stories with fanciful elements, those movies have flopped and created a backlash. “We’re certainly always grateful for themes of redemption and faith in films,” said Kendrick. “Where we have problem is when they take our most respected scripture and twist it in a way that is at odds with our beliefs.” He has said that he hopes studios will take less artistic license with upcoming Biblical movies such as “Ben-Hur” and “Risen,” the story of a Roman centurion tasked with an investigation of reports of Jesus’ resurrection. “We’re hopeful that these will be faithful to scripture or to the original story, and if they are, we will flock in droves,” Kendrick said.
Mojo Box Office, August 31, reports that top pick (top box office) redemptive and family movies (which have beat out less redemptive movies) are available in theaters the first week of August: “War Room,” “Inside Out,” and “Shaun the Sheep.”
On the horizon for this fall and next year are many promising redemptive and family movies due out in theaters for a range of ages. These hopeful movies produced by independent and major studios alike with ever-improving production quality and performances include: “90 Minutes in Heaven,” “Shake off the World,””Adrenaline,” “Captive,” “Pan,” “Woodlawn,” “The Peanuts Movie,” “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2,” “The Good Dinosaur,” and “Star Wars: Episode VII, The Force Awakens, ” “The Masked Saint, ” “Risen,” “Kung Fu Panda 3,” “Ben-Hur,” “Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt,” “God’s not Dead 2,” “Miracles from Heaven,””The Jungle Book,” “I Am Not Ashamed: Rachel Joy Scott Story,” “Same Kind of Different as Me,””Finding Dory,” “Providence,” “Left Behind 2,” and “The BFG.”
Other hopeful, redemptive, and/or family movies in development without release dates yet include: “Do You Believe 2,” “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone,” “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair,” “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician’s Nephew,” “Ten Commandments,” “King David,” “Apostle Paul’ (with Hugh Jackman), “Pontius Pilate,” “Butterfly Circus,” “The Adventures of Tintin 2,” and HD Texas Movies.
Redemptive and family movies do the best over the long haul with theater and then DVD releases and finally various forms of streaming. They have staying power because like classic stories they are based on universal Truth that stands the test of time. The Renaissance of artistry and Reformation of content in redemptive and family movies continues and the future is hopeful.