'War Room' tops Labor Day box office

NASHVILLE (BP) -- The faith-based film "War Room," co-written by brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick, topped the box office over Labor Day weekend, grossing nearly $2.5 million more than the nearest competitor during its second weekend in theaters.

"We thought we had a shot at the top five, but didn't expect to be near the top," director Alex Kendrick told The Wrap Sept. 2 after War Room finished second its opening weekend. "The response has been incredible! We've been overwhelmed with people who were inspired and moved by the film. Already we've gotten more social media messages than we could ever read."

The latest Kendrick Brothers' film grossed $13.4 million Sept. 4-7, bringing its total gross earnings to nearly $29 million, according to Box Office Mojo. The PG-rated movie showed in 1,526 theaters over Labor Day weekend, an increase of nearly 400 from its opening weekend.

War Room stars noted Bible teachers Priscilla Shirer in a lead role and Beth Moore in the supporting cast. Shirer is cast as a young wife and mother who heeds the advice of an older, wiser woman to establish a room in her home for prayer -- a war room -- and to pray earnestly for her husband, marriage, child and home.

Despite a "micro-budget" of $3.5 million, War Room has received media coverage from the Associated Press, The Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today, CBS, Fox News and other media outlets, according to a release from Christian Newswire.

A CNN article called War Room the Kendrick brothers' "most high-profile project to date." Their previous films include "Fireproof" (2008) and "Courageous" (2011), each of which made more than $30 million, according to CNN.

Tana Evans, an executive at Sony's Affirm Films, which helped market War Room, said the movie demonstrates "there is obviously a demand for quality content that resonates with the faith audience."

Some Southern Baptists took to Twitter over the weekend in response to War Room. Steve Gaines, pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church, tweeted, "If you haven't been to see the movie 'War Room,' move heaven & earth if you have to & go see it! Best movie I've ever seen."

Jack Graham, pastor of the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church, tweeted, "How great coming off a very tough summer in the culture, that God raised up a movie on prayer to be #1 [at the] box office on Labor Day."

Donald Whitney, professor of biblical spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, encouraged believers to create their own "war rooms" in which to "engage in spiritual warfare" through prayer.

"While it's true that many will not have the space to set aside an area exclusively for prayer, what does it say about the priorities of Christians who have a whole room for physical exercise, but no place only for spiritual exercises?" Whitney wrote in a blog post. "What does it say when we allocate a large space just for children to play, but none for Christians to pray? What does it say when we design the most spacious area in the home for our entertainment, filling it with a large television, music system, and computer whereby we hear from the world, but make no plans for a place where we meet with God?

"It's not that we can't use the same desk both for work and prayer," Whitney continued, "or that we can't read the Bible in the same chair where we watch TV. But why shouldn't the home of a Christian demonstrate by design -- whether a small room, nook, or repurposed closet -- that prayer to God is important?"

David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service.
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