After a strong opening weekend, the church-produced movie “Courageous” was still in the top ten at the box office for weekend two.
It had debuted in the number four spot nationally, making more than $9 million nationwide — more than four times what it cost to make.
Made on a $2 million budget by a pair of movie-making preachers who are brothers, the film raked in a total of $9,614,447 in its first weekend. On opening day, September 30, it brought in $3,111,101.
“Our church family is excited and thrilled, Albany has been amazing at coming out to the movie,” writer and producer Steven Kendrick told hometown WFXL Channel 31. “We’re so grateful at the response. It was the number one new movie in theaters, it had the highest per screen average over the weekend.”
In its second weekend, it raked in another $4.6 million. Albany is the little Georgia town where Kendrick is an associate pastor at Sherwood Baptist Church with his brother Alex, also an associate pastor and the director of the movie.
“Sherwood Pictures, the moviemaking ministry of Sherwood Church in Albany, Ga., is a better judge of its audience than the tracking services are,” marveled the industry magazine Variety.“Its most recent film, ‘Courageous,’ released by Sony’s TriStar Pictures, minted $9.6 million from just 1,161 stateside locations in its opening weekend.
Industry experts didn’t expect the film to do so well, Variety noted.
“‘Courageous,’ which didn’t even figure in pre-weekend tracking services,” noted Variety writer Andrew Stewart, “started out strong before it even debuted with advanced ticket sales totaling around $2 million. The film continued to build momentum throughout the weekend, surprising most [box office] observers by topping a trio of higher-profile wide releases that included ‘Dream House’ and ’50/50.’”
In 2008, the Kendrick brothers’ “Fireproof” opened with $6.8 million and went on to became that year’s highest-grossing independent release with $33.5 million domestically.
Despite the financial success of “Courageous,” Alex told the New York Times he hopes the film will do more than just reach the top of the charts.
“Success for us is changed lives,” he said. “It’s important to keep in mind we’re not Hollywood, we’re not trying to be Hollywood. We’re first a ministry. So before each movie that we do, we commit time to pray and say, ‘God, what movie do you want us to do next?’ So we felt like me, my brother, that fatherhood was where our heart was turning. Given that, we started researching fatherhood, the national fatherhood initiative, Washington organizations, just pulling stats, and we noted that part of a dad’s job is to protect and serve his family and law enforcement is known for protecting and serving, so we put it in the context of a law enforcement story.”
“Courageous” tells the story of four law enforcement officers who clean up crime in their community but struggle to be godly, loving fathers and husbands. When tragedy hits the family of one of the officers, the four men sign a resolution to live up to their responsibility as husbands and dads.
“I would say in today’s culture, the father is often the butt of the joke, and that’s sad, and so we would like men to raise their own standard. And do it in a way through a story that’s not only entertaining, but inspirational and challenging,” Kendrick told the Times.
In order to further the message of godly manhood, the movie’s makers have created a number of resources to help churches and individuals explore the film’s themes in their own lives. Among those are the books The Resolution for Men, The Resolution for Women and the Courageous Living Bible Study.
Estimates show the film brought in $4.6 million over the weekend, making it the sixth highest overall earner, according to the website boxofficemojo.com.
The weekend’s top earner was another inspirational film “Real Steel,” about a boy and his father training a robot to box, starring Hugh Jackman. It brought in an estimated gross of $27.3 million in its first weekend.
“The Ides of March,” a political drama was second at $10.4 million. In third was the inspirational “Dolphin Tale” ($9.2 million).
Is “Courageous” accomplishing its goal of changing lives? A Facebook user, Susan Whitlow, posted on the film’s fan page that her husband, a deputy, and two of his co-workers saw the movie, and are all now attending her church’s 7-week class for men — and that the first night of the course was so crowded that it had to be moved to a bigger room.
“I’m so thankful for a movie that is encouraging men in their roles as husbands and fathers, and for a church doing the same!” she wrote.
Do the Kendrick brothers hope to reach beyond church folks?
“We know that audiences that share our faith will respond,” Alex told the Times, “and what we know from our previous three movies is there’s lots of bleed over. What we don’t try and do is ride the fence. We’re not trying to win both sides of the fence, we’re pretty out front with what we believe and why we make the movies — we don’t try and hide it.
“But at the end of the day we’re trying to encourage dads of any faith to love your kids, be there for them, tell them you approve of them and affirm them. For us when a dad does a good job, that helps them trust and love God, that’s ministry for us.”