'Fireproof' has made millions, but it's split multiple ways

ALBANY, Ga. (BP)--Heading into its eighth weekend, "Fireproof," the latest film from the moviemakers at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., has grossed more than $28 million.

The church, though, has not made anywhere close to that amount.

As is the case with Hollywood movies, the total gross from Fireproof is split numerous ways, beginning with the theater owners, who will have kept roughly half of the total gross once Fireproof leaves theaters, officials with the movie say. After that, each of the various partners who advertised, promoted and distributed the film -- Sony Pictures, Goldwyn Films, Provident Films and Carmel Entertainment –- get a cut. The church then gets its cut.

Jim McBride, an executive producer for the movie and executive pastor at Sherwood Baptist, said the church has a policy not to discuss publicly what it makes from its films or DVD sales, although he did say it's a "far cry" from what it has grossed at the box office. But all of the church's proceeds, he said, have gone to the church's "Generations" campaign -- a fundraising campaign to pay for a new $5 million sanctuary and to build an 82-acre, $4 million sports park. The sanctuary has been completed for several years, while construction on the sports park -- which will be open to all the city's residents and will be used for outreach -- began in 2004.

"We commonly say at the church that with one of these movies we've felt like the little boy with five loaves and two fish who gave what little he had to Jesus and stood back in awe at what God did," McBride told Baptist Press. "We're continually amazed at the success of the movie. We decided that if the Lord chose to bless the movies, then we wanted to use that [money] for outreach -- just like we wanted to use the movies to reach the world for Christ."

When completed, the sports park will have, among other things, walking trails, fishing ponds, horse stables and riding trails, tennis courts and softball fields. It is a "huge undertaking," said McBride, who is seen briefly in a non-speaking role in Fireproof and played the role of a bombastic football coach in the church's previous movie, "Facing the Giants" (2006).

"We wanted it to be for our entire region a place that families could come and it would be a family friendly evangelistic park," he said. "We targeted any funds that come in from the movie to go into that Generations campaign. From the beginning, we already had the funds designated."

Fireproof was made for $500,000, while Facing the Giants -- which grossed $10 million at the box office -- was filmed for $100,000. Fireproof opens in more than 80 new theaters this weekend, including, for the first time, a theater in Rhode Island. After this weekend it will have been shown in all 50 states.

"We never went into this -- from even the beginning -- to make money," McBride said. "We certainly want to be good stewards, but at the same time we're making the movies for ministry."

That philosophy has translated to the sale of the movies on DVD. "Flywheel" -– the church's first movie -- and Facing the Giants are available in 13 languages, a rarity for a movie.

"Each one of those languages is an additional expense, but we paid the additional expense to put them in there because that's another people group that will be reached," McBride said. "From a business model standpoint, some of our partners would say, 'Let's start off with a couple of languages -- the ones that will sell the most.' But we're not interested in that aspect as much as we are in reaching more people for Christ."

Some fans of Sherwood Baptist's movies no doubt already are curious about the subject matter of the church's next movie. McBride, though, said church officials have yet to make any decisions about the topic of a future movie -- or even if there will be one. All of their movies, he said, are "birthed in a season of prayer." At some point in December, he said, he will join senior pastor Michael Catt and associate pastors Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick in praying and seeking God's will. The Kendricks wrote the screenplay for all three films.

"Everyone would love to see us make another movie, but more important than what we want is what God wants," McBride said. "So we're going to go to a season of prayer in December for a week where we'll seclude ourselves."


Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. For more information about "Fireproof," visit FireproofTheMovie.com. For resources, visit FireproofMyMarriage.com.

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