'Fireproof' Debuts at No. 4

 Boosted by grass-roots support and bulk ticket purchases from churchgoers as well as some Christian retailers, Fireproof—a drama starring Kirk Cameron as a firefighter who turns to God to help save his marriage—premiered at No. 4 at the weekend with $6.5 million total receipts, the Associated Press reported.

Variety said Fireproof was "the biggest surprise" of the weekend's box office, noting that the movie saw the strongest opening among recent faith-based films.

Kris Fuhr, who heads up operations at Provident Films, which released Fireproof with Sherwood Pictures, said that the film's fourth place debut "exceeded our expectations." "I knew last week when I saw the box office that there was a chance if we had a big weekend, we had a chance to be in the top five," said Fuhr, who added that the fifth place movie last week made approximately $6 million. "God showed up and opened the door at No. 5, and He pushed us through to No. 4 this week."

Media by Numbers said that on a per-screen basis, the film was second only to the weekend's top film, Eagle Eye, E! Online reported. With a $500,000 budget, Fireproof was shown in just 839 theaters nationwide, compared to 3,510 theaters for the Shia LaBeouf thriller that cost $80 million to make. Media by Numbers added that Fireproof had the year's highest grossing opening weekend return of any film—except 3-D Hannah Montana—released on 1,000 screens or less.

Fireproof's opening was "nearly double some expectations," the Los Angeles Times observed. "Their faith-based, grass-roots marketing campaign really paid off," Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media by Numbers, told the newspaper.

Fireproof saw its best business in America's heartland and in the Southeast, according to Samuel Goldwyn Films, which distributed the film, E! Online reported. Goldwyn launched its grass-roots marketing campaign for the film nearly a year ago, reaching out to churches and screening the movie. Michael Silberman, Goldwyn's distribution chief, said Fireproof will likely expand to more than 1,000 theaters.

Although Fireproof just opened, churches and Christian counseling centers have already made the book that's a focal point of the movie into a best-seller. The Love Dare, a marriage book written by the film's co-producing brothers Stephen and Alex Kendrick, is now in its fifth printing with more than 500,000 copies.

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