ALBANY, Ga. (BP) -- "Courageous" producer Stephen Kendrick has now seen David beat Goliath twice at the box office.
In this instance, "David" is Sherwood Baptist Church, the Albany, Ga., congregation that made "Fireproof," the top independent film of 2008, as well as "Courageous," the No. 1 new movie during its opening weekend. Neither film had huge budgets by Hollywood standards but each opened at No. 4 in total box office and surprised Hollywood insiders.
Kendrick, though, isn't taking any credit.
"The world is looking at box office numbers, and I am just praising God that He is continuing to make it a David and Goliath situation," Kendrick told Baptist Press.
Fireproof was made for $500,000, Courageous $1 million. By comparison, the average budget of the other top 10 films last weekend was $41 million. And Courageous beat most of them, despite playing in only 1,161 theaters. Every other Top 10 film played in at least 2,300. Courageous' per-theater average of $7,849 also was tops, and it received an A+ CinemaScore during exit polling of viewers -- a rarity.
Its successful opening has allowed movie officials to cut a new TV commercial touting its opening weekend success. It's also allowed Courageous to stay at No. 5 in Fandango.com's ticket sales.
Baptist Press spoke with Kendrick and asked him about his thoughts on opening weekend, movie critics and Sherwood's steady improvement in making movies. Following is a partial transcript.
BAPTIST PRESS: What were you hoping for on opening weekend?
STEPHEN KENDRICK: We were asking the Lord to do something that would surprise everyone and create buzz. With every movie, He's done more than we could ask or imagine. On the spiritual side, over 500,000 men saw the movie on opening weekend, which represents families and households and hopefully changed lives. We've heard of men giving their lives to Christ after the movie was over. There were six men in a Tennessee theater who gave their lives to Christ afterwards. We've heard of police officers giving their lives to Christ afterwards. A lot of people are saying, "This movie moved me, touched me deeply, and I'm going home to hug my wife and my kids and I'm going to start stepping it up at home." The world is looking at box office numbers, and I am just praising God that He is continuing to make it a David and Goliath situation.
BP: This film did receive a lot of wide praise in the Christian community but it did get some poor reviews in mainstream media. Do you guys really not care what the mainstream press says?
KENDRICK: We don't make our movies for them. It's really funny reading the RottonTomatoes.com reviews because you see how out of touch a lot of the critics are. But middle America wants clean wholesome movies and movies that honor faith and family. We read movie reviews on "Facing the Giants" [in 2006], and we took them personally. But our pastor says, "You have to be dead to flattery and also to flattening. Ultimately, we have to look back and ask, "Did we obey the Lord?" We want to look back and say we obeyed the Lord with the movie He wanted us to make, and as an offering unto Him, we tried to give Him our best. There is a sense of joy in knowing that we didn't give God a Cain offering, we gave Him an Abel offering. If everybody was raving about the movie, there'd be something wrong, because the Gospel is offensive.
BP: A lot of people have praised this film as being better than Fireproof. At what point in the past couple of years did you realize this film was going to be judged to be better than Fireproof?
KENDRICK: We were hoping it would be better, and with every movie we've tried to pursue a higher standard of excellence at every level: How can we ramp up our praying even more? How can we ramp up our acting? We took some very intentional steps to improve the acting in this movie -- not only how good you had to be to get cast but also the training we did with the actors when they came. The amount of footage we shot with the film was over twice as much as the previous movie. [Sherwood Baptist's] Mark Willard did an outstanding job with the music score and took that to whole other level with a bigger orchestra. We also made some deliberate decisions concerning locations that we had not done in the past. Previously, it was, "If it's available, then that's good enough." With Courageous, we wanted visually rich locations. At every level, we tried to push ourselves. And we'll try to do that again. If the Lord leads us to make another movie, it's like, "OK, Lord, how can we improve upon Courageous and do better next time?"
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press
Read how your church can get involved in Courageous at http://www.bpnews.net/BPFirstPerson.asp?ID=35942
Read Baptist Press' review of Courageous at http://www.bpnews.net/BPFirstPerson.asp?ID=35579
Read what Tony Dungy said about Courageous athttp://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=36092