Fireproof, a film about marriage made by church volunteers, has astounded media critics by opening at number four in the US box office.
Made with a budget of just $500,000 and a cast and crew of 1,200 volunteers, the film has taken $12.5m so far. Figures are reported by Media by Numbers, a box office tracking company.
The film has received much mainstream media attention and critics such as Neil Genzlinger in the New York Times wrote that its positives included “that rarest of creatures on the big (or small) screen: characters with a strong, conservative Christian faith who don’t sound crazy”.
Mitch Temple, writing on the website for Focus on the Family, said that “the brilliantly produced film radiates messages of authentic determination, faith and hope”.
Contributing hugely to the success of Fireproof has been the great support of US churches, some of which are even offering married couples free childcare while they go to the cinema.
The film focuses on the importance of learning to love unconditionally in marriage.
In the movie US television star Kirk Cameron plays Caleb Holt, a fireman fighting to keep his marriage alive. On the brink of divorce, his father gives him a book called The Love Dare, a 40-day challenge based on Christian teaching which coaches married couples in loving one another unconditionally.
Mr Cameron, an evangelical Christian who appeared in the film for free, has been married for 17 years and has 6 children. He recently caused waves by telling interviewers on MSNBC that he won’t kiss female co-stars because of his commitment to his wife. “I have a commitment not to kiss any other woman”, he said.
Mr Cameron approached Sherwood Pictures, the tiny production company affiliated with Sherwood Baptist Church, after seeing the studio’s last release. Facing the Giants (2006), a film about an underdog American football team, grossed more than $10m.
Michael Catt, the church’s senior pastor who served as Fireproof’s executive producer, has argued that Christians too often criticise mainstream entertainment without adding anything positive to it.
“It’s easy to point the fingers,” he says, “but what we need to be doing is offering realistic alternatives”.
Alex Kendrick, co-writer and director of Fireproof says “for us, most of what is coming out of Hollywood does not reflect our faith and values, and so this is one way to throw our hat in the ring”.