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Two new films end strong run for faith-based pics at box office

October 9, 2011 |  1:20 pm

The Way didn't get off to a great start at the box office this weekend
It had been a solid year at the box office for films with religious themes.

But this weekend, two pictures with spiritual motifs -- "The Way" and "Machine Gun Preacher" -- failed to resonate with moviegoers.

"The Way," directed, written by and starring Emilio Estevez and his father Martin Sheen, opened in 33 theaters and grossed $132,411, according to an estimate from Producers Distribution Agency, which is releasing the film. That means the movie brought in an average of $4,012 per theater, a weak start for the picture about a father who sets off on a religious pilgrimage to honor his late son.

"Machine Gun Preacher" got off to a better start when it opened in limited release late last month, averaging $11,000 per theater. But the film about a missionary who travels to Sudan to help children of war has not been as successful since. This weekend, the movie played in 93 theaters but only brought in $113,000. Since its release Sept. 23, the picture -- which had a budget of around $30 million -- has only collected a disappointing $291,632.

Neither film looks to follow in the footsteps of "Soul Surfer," about a teenager who relies on her faith when her arm is bitten off by a shark. Moviegoers loved the the modestly budgeted film, assigning it a rare average grade of A+, according to market research firm CinemaScore. After opening in March, the movie went on to take in a respectable $43.9 million domestically.

"Soul Surfer" hasn't been the only religious film audiences have responded to in 2011. In recent weeks, "Dolphin Tale" -- a 3-D family film that doesn't center around explicitly Christian topics but was marketed to a faith-based audience -- has done surprisingly well at the box office. And "Courageous," made by two brothers who are also ministers, is proving to be a sleeper hit. The film about four police officers grappling with religion after a tragedy had a budget of only $2 million, but has already made $15.9 million after two weeks in theaters.


Hollywood shines a light on the spiritual

'Machine Gun Preacher' has decent first round in limited release

Box office: 'Real Steel' KOs competition, including George Clooney

-- Amy Kaufman

Photo: Martin Sheen stars in "The Way." Credit: Producers Distribution Agency.