God has a place in people's lives. More critics came to know of this, as the movie War Room made a whopping $11 million dollars debut last week.
The movie gave a tough competition to Straight Outta Compton, which grossed $13.2 million in its third week. However, the War Room achieved an amazing score by just opening in 1,135 locations around the country, while the N.W.A biopic was released in 3,142.
Produced for just $3.5 million, the faith-based movie left behind mega-budget and superstar-featuring flicks, including Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible - Rouge Nation, Pierce Brosnan's No Escape, and We Are Your Friends.
Critics had thrashed the movie, giving it 18 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, even as Los Angeles Times debunked it as "mighty long-winded and wincingly overwrought," and others called it "overwrought", "infantile depiction of prayer," "preachy," "a mess."
Movie goers loved it, nevertheless. A survey by CinemaScore, a market research firm based in Los Angeles, reported that the audience gave War Room a score of A+, an honor accorded only to Clint Eastwood's American Sniper this year.
This is the fifth movie collaboration by brothers, Alex and Stephen Kendrick, who have also made the high-grossing Christian movies Courageous (2011), Fireproof (2008), and Facing the Giants (2006). Courageous, a Christian drama film, is the highest grossing film ($34.5 million) by the Kendrick brothers thus far.
Alex, who previously served as a pastor, said that some in the industry could not comprehend the market they were working in.
He told The Hollywood Reporter, "Some of our critics, especially the secular critics, will accuse us of preaching to the choir and accuse us of not hitting our proper audience, which is hilarious to me because we know our audience."
"They're not coming at it from our worldview. We get that. All of us have free will. It is a little bit of a hoot sometimes to read what they perceive even as our target audience," he continued.
Senior media analyst at Rentrak, Paul Dergarabedian said, "These are the kind of outlier events that happen and wake everyone up to the fact that faith-based audiences are passionate and looking for content."
All of the films have come through faith-based TriStar/Affirm wing of Sony.
Rich Peluso, senior VP of Affirm Films said, "The Affirm and Provident partnership with the Kendricks has been proven effective over several films now. They are intimately connected to faith leaders across the country and work hard to integrate themes within their movies that resound with these leaders and provide resources that allow the use of the movie as both entertainment and a useful tool to change lives and hearts."
This was first of the Kendrick brothers' movie portrayed through an African-American cast. The lead protagonist roles are played by TC Stallings, who had a supporting role in Courageous, and Priscilla Shirer. The film is about a broken family struggling to be back on its feet through prayer, who take the help of Karen Abercrombie, an elderly wise woman in the movie, to pray for them.
"When we started writing out the plot, it occurred to us that this movie would be more powerful or passionate as told from an African-American perspective," said Alex. "The African-American church is more visceral, they are more expressive and there is a powerful passion to their prayers."
"We want to tell a story that is very uniting. If people leave with a thirst and a hunger to pray more, then that is success for us."