"Soul Surfer" debuted over the weekend with $11.1 million, beating out the star-studded film "Your Highness."
Though fourth at the box office, the inspirational film based on the true story of Bethany Hamilton had a higher per screen average than the weekend's number one movie, Warner Bros.' "Arthur."
"Soul Surfer" tells the story of teen surfer Hamilton (played by AnnaSophia Robb), who lost her left arm in a shark attack at age 13. The film follows her brief struggle and reveals her strong Christian faith and optimism that gets her back on the board.
Hamilton's story was first made known to the world through her book Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board, released in 2004, a year after the attack.
Actor Dennis Quaid told MovideGuide that he remembered watching the young surfer on "The Today Show" when she was promoting her new book.
"She was so inspirational," he said. "She was so positive and her faith oozed out of her. It permeated like a light. It hit you at your core."
Three days later, he was asked to play Hamilton's father Tom in the film.
Though movie critic Roger Ebert says the surfer's optimism is "almost eerie" in the film and hard to identify with, the film actually played down the optimism that the real Hamilton had after the shark attack.
In the film, Hamilton is shown struggling as she recovers from the ordeal while in the hospital. But in reality, Hamilton said she was "smiling and happy" during her time at the hospital, she told Colorado Springs' The Gazette.
She also said she never really came to "that point" of "complete[ly] giving up."
"I guess how it (faith) got me through is just knowing that God loves me and He has a purpose for my life and He wants good to come out of this," Hamilton told The Gazette. "For most people they’re like, 'Well, why would God allow that to happen? It’s such a horrible thing.' But if you look at all the good that’s come out of it, just being able to encourage people and I’m still surfing and living my dream and reaching more people than I ever could of with two arms, it’s just a creative and different life than it could have been or chosen myself."
The role that faith played in Hamilton's life may have been a bit much for Hollywood (which initially edited out the words "Holy Bible" from the cover of the book that Tom Hamilton was reading in the film), but it's this faith that got the surfer through what could have been an even more devastating tragedy.
"I believe in God. Nobody made me believe," Bethany Hamilton says in her testimony. "I don't think you can or should try to force someone to believe something. And even though my parents taught me stuff about God and read Bible stories to me from as early as I can remember ... it was my choice to become a believer in Him."
Hamilton, who entered her first surf competition at age eight and won, has gone on to become a pro surfer and competes with some of the best women surfers in the world. And her story continues to inspire thousands.
"Soul Surfer" also stars Helen Hunt, Kevin Sorbo and Carrie Underwood.