Monday Morning Quarterback Part I
By BOP Staff
September 1, 2015
Kim Hollis: War Room, the faith-based film from director Alex Kendrick, earned $11.4 million this weekend. Why did this grass roots religious film succeed where others have failed in 2015?
Edwin Davies: We've seen Christian films do well in the past through directly appealing to religious audiences through churches and pastors. That technique isn't foolproof, but it generally means that these typically low-budget efforts turn a profit by appealing to a specific niche. The ones that break out usually have some X-factor: God's Not Dead took a deliberately provocative stand, Heaven is for Real was based on a popular book, and Son of God was taken from an already successful miniseries.
The X-factor for War Room was director Alex Kendrick, who is the closest faith-based cinema has to a superstar director. As the director of Fireproof and Courageous, he has a lot of goodwill stored up from directing these unambiguously religious morality plays. This could make War Room front-loaded, and I wouldn't be surprised if it closed in the same low-$30 million range as his last two films, but it reaffirms that Kendrick is (in an admittedly limited way) a brand name.
Ryan Kyle: I agree with Edwin and would find it comparable to call director/writer Alex Kendrick the faith-based films' Tyler Perry (albeit with a much slower churn time) due to him having a consistent gross pattern with the same core audience group. With most of the successful faith-based films of recent years coming from the TriStar banner at Sony, I guess their marketing department knows something the others don't. Made for the cost of a typical Blumhouse film, these penny productions are even more impressive than the horror flicks, as they don't require an aggressive TV/print campaign. This makes these openings seem as if they come out of nowhere and profit almost instantaneously. I'm surprised we don't see more Christian films on a consistent basis given that I think we have passed the point in believing that these openings are one-off successes.
Matthew Huntley: Good observation, Edwin. You've shed some light on why War Room probably did as well as it did. I didn't know Alex Kendrick had such a profitable track record and that it may be his name that sold it (I guess this is why the poster advertises the film as "From the Creators of FIREPROOF and COURAGEOUS"). In addition to the filmmakers, though, I would attribute the film's success to a seemingly lack of better options for most moviegoers. Many would agree Hollywood is sort of in a "blah" state at the moment, despite there being plenty of great product still available, but to the majority of viewers, I'm willing to bet War Room looked like it was the most popular (and therefore accessible) choices of the new releases this weekend and so even non-Christians decided to give it a chance. But I would agree the director had more to do with it and we'll definitely see more from him in the future. I've yet to see any of his films, but if it's at all like God's Not Dead (the one Christian film I've seen in recent years), I'm not expecting much as far as quality, subtlety, efficacy, etc.