The makers of the 2006 box office hit "Facing the Giants" now have less than a month to rally Christians across the nation behind its third feature film in hopes of ensuring a high-impact opening weekend.
But more than big numbers on the opening weekend of Sept. 26-28, Sherwood Pictures, the moviemaking ministry of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., is looking for a wave of change to build up in a nation where one out of every two marriages is believed to end in divorce.
"I am convinced that this is going to be a life changing movie because I've been here (at the film's production) for a couple of days and I've seen the heart of the people who are making it," commented John White, president of Firefighters for Christ, to the promoters of "Fireproof."
Directed and produced by brothers and associate pastors Alex and Stephen Kendrick, "Fireproof" centers around the relationship of fireman Caleb Holt and his wife Catherine, whose seven-year marriage is on the verge of divorce.
"Catherine and I were in love when we were married, but today, we're two very different people," says Caleb, played by prominent actor Kirk Cameron.
"We fight more than we do anything else," adds Catherine, played by Erin Bethea.
In the last half of the movie, Caleb strives to win back the heart of his wife with his newfound faith and with the help of the "Love Dare," a 40-day spiritual guide that utilizes the Bible to reveal what true love is. The title "Fireproof" stems from the idea that "fireproofing" a marriage doesn't mean keeping fire from ever coming, but being able to withstand fire when it comes.
The movie has already been receiving rave reviews after it was revealed this summer at the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors' Conference in Indianapolis and during the International Christian Retail Show in Orlando last month.
"Roughly 2,000 pastors and pastors' wives were at the screening I attended, and many of them responded during the credits with a standing ovation," commented Michael Foust, an assistant editor at Baptist Press. "At another screening, a different audience also stood in applause. I spoke to one friend who said that after watching it, he called his wife to tell her he loved her. Yes, it's that good."
"Fireproof is a challenging look at marriage and what the meaning of love truly is," commented Craig von Buseck, ministries director for CBN.com, in a personal blog after attending one of the pre-release screenings at this year's International Christian Retail Show.
Two years ago, Sherwood Pictures and Provident Films released "Facing the Giants," a movie about how a high school football team discovers that with God, nothing is impossible. Produced by a church on a "shoestring" budget, "Facing the Giants" became the surprise hit of the year, touching the hearts of more than 1.5 million people in theaters nationwide. In 2007, the film came out on DVD and was the best-selling entertainment product (DVD or CD) in Christian stores for the entire year.
With a budget five times larger than that of "Facing the Giants" – though still tiny by Hollywood standards – "Fireproof" is aiming to build upon the momentum from the first two films and spread its pro-marriage message at a time when it's desperately needed.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control, the marriage rate in 2005 was 7.5 per 1,000 total population while the divorce rate was 3.6 per 1,000 population.
And, more recently, a poll by Gallup's 2008 Values and Beliefs survey earlier this year found that an alarming 70 percent of Americans now believe that divorce is "morally acceptable." The latest figure – the highest on record – represents an 11 percent increase from just 7 years ago and a 3 percent increase from 2 years ago.
The acceptability of divorce among Americans was ranked higher than all of the other 16 ethical issues surveyed – including the death penalty, gambling, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, abortion and medical research on animals.
Knowing this, pro-family groups have been rallying behind "Fireproof," especially in mobilizing people to watch the film on the opening weekend.
"Opening Weekend is the key to any movie's success," the film's promoters stated in the "Fireproof" website, FireproofTheMovie.com. "If a movie does well on Opening Weekend, it plays longer in the theaters where it opens and expands into other cities."
And all around the country, "Fireproof" supporters are helping ensure a high-impact opening weekend. "Action Squads" have been forming to purchase show times in communities where the movie is opening. In towns where it's not scheduled to open, the Action Squads are purchasing enough tickets in advance to bring it there to open.
In the Gulf Coast area of Mississippi, for example, Hilton and Rebecca Glass are working with churches and businesses in four counties to come together to purchase 5,000 tickets, film promoters reported late last month.
"Their goal is that every firefighter, police officer, and emergency responder in those counties will be able to see 'Fireproof' on opening weekend with their spouse or date," they added.
Meanwhile, in Chattanooga, Tenn., Action Squads all over the city are buying out show times for the opening weekend and St. John United Methodist Church, which is starting a sermon series about relationships on Sept. 7, is selling their Action Squad Show Time tickets to church members at a reduced rate and providing couples with as many tickets as they are willing to use as an outreach tool with their unchurched friends. St. John's is also planning to offer childcare at the church so that the parents can have a date night at the movies.
In an interview with MovieGuide last month, Alex Kendrick, who produced "Fireproof" while his brother directed it, said over 50 marriage ministries are supporting the movie.
"Even the Catholic Church is promoting this movie as a great movie to strengthen marriages, because they're really pro-marriage," he said.
Alex further expressed how thrilled he and his brother have been at the grass-roots response from all across the nation.
"We're just praying God uses it," he added.
"We would love it if the divorce rate went down as a result of all that's going on. We found out that every percentage point it goes down, it impacts a million children. That's just huge for the future of our country, that we strengthen those foundational relationships in the home," he concluded.
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