Poster for 'Facing the Giants'
It was made by a church on a donated budget of $100,000 with volunteer actors, but instead of a low-budget castoff, "Facing the Giants" held its own against Hollywood's big boys in its opening weekend, grossing $1.4 million on only 441 screens.
Officials say the production, by Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., was released by Samuel Goldwyn Films and ranked No. 12 for all films over its first weekend, even though other films had up to eight times as many screens. Its per-screen average of $3,149 was fourth among the top 10 grossing weekend films.
"I think this sends a clear message to Hollywood that there is an audience who does want to see a positive, uplifting film that promotes faith and family values," said Michael Catt, the senior pastor at Sherwood Baptist and executive producer for the project.
"Hopefully, this will open the door for more organizations to bring other quality-content projects to the big screen," he said.
Competing with Hollywood typicals such as "Jackass" and "School for Scoundrels," the movie had sellout crowds in Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, West Palm Beach and Orange County, officials said.
"It's one of the few movies that you wouldn't mind Jesus sitting next to you and sharing the popcorn," one e-mail to the church said.
In at least 20 markets, officials said, booster clubs pre-sold a minimum of 1,000 tickets to make sure the film would be shown, and there is a significant demand for the production company to add to the number of screens showing the feature.
This was the movie that, earlier this year, was the subject of a WND report about some unexpected attention after the MPAA decided to give it an unprecedented PG rating because "the Christian message of hope and faith in God … are 'thematic elements' that might be disturbing to some parents."
That sparked a war of words over Hollywood's discrimination against Christian projects, and a well-publicized retreat by Hollywood from that comment about "thematic elements."
The story is about a down-and-out coach and football team at a Christian high school, struggling on and off the field.
"Failure, betrayal, fear, and hopelessness overwhelm the coach as he deals with a lackluster team, disgruntled parents, financial pressures, and the discovery that he and his wife can't have children. As he turns to God, his life begins to change," the promotions say.
The only hired participants included a small professional camera crew, with the cast and other crew members all volunteering their time.
The church said plans now are under way to expand the offerings of the film.
"Facing the Giants" was written by Alex and Stephen Kendrick, and produced by the Kendricks and David Nixon.
Sherwood Pictures, the church division doing the movie work, in 2003 released "Flywheel," which was produced on a $20,000 budget, sold more than 33,000 DVDs and now is in Blockbuster stores across the nation.
It won seven awards at film festivals and has been shown on family television networks, including TBN, which airs to more than 63 million viewers.
Sherwood Productions began with Catt, who wanted to reach the world. He cleared room for the non-traditional ministry in the church.
The only "star" who appears is University of Georgia head football Coach Mark Richt, who was a fan of "Flywheel" and volunteer to do a cameo as himself.
Provident Music Group, a Nashville-based label, granted permission for the church to use songs by Provident artists, including Third Day and Casting Crowns, for the production.
Proceeds are to be used for a 40-acre youth recreational park planned by Sherwood Baptist in Albany, officials said.
"My wife and I laughed and cried throughout this terrific movie," said Joe White, president of Kanakuk Christian Sports Camps and founder of Kids Across America.
"I don't like football movies generally. The football parts aren't realistic. This is an exception. Well done!" said Vince Lombardi Jr., son of legendary Packers Coach Vince Lombardi.
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