The makers of “October Baby” always believed their anti-abortion movie would play well in the Bible Belt. But in its debut weekend of limited national release, the drama generated solid box-office business in Hawaii, New York, Nebraska and Montana. Those returns have given fresh momentum to — and brought some unexpected donations for — “October Baby’s” planned expansion.
Premiering in 390 theaters last weekend, “October Baby” grossed $1.7 million for eighth place overall, a good start for a self-financed film supported by a paltry marketing budget of just $3 million. While the bulk of the film’s revenue came from theaters in the southeastern United States, “October Baby” played in crowded auditoriums in cities such as Honolulu and Omaha.
“We’re really pleased with the numbers, especially given the competition,” Andy Erwin, who directed and wrote the $800,000 drama with his brother, Jon, said of opening against “The Hunger Games.” Said Jon: “I had no idea we’d even be in the top 10.”
The movie, which is being released by the Samuel Goldwyn Co., is expected to expand into 100 or more new locations on April 13. “And the good news is that we have retained all of our theaters” from the first weekend, said Meyer Gottlieb, Goldwyn’s president. "October Baby" is on pace to equal the revenues generated by Christian football drama "Facing the Giants," which took in more than $10 million in 2006, Gottlieb said.
“October Baby” tells the story of a young woman named Hannah, played by newcomer Rachel Hendrix, who discovers early in the film that her mother tried but failed to abort her late in her pregnancy. She was subsequently adopted and spends much of the movie looking for her birth mother. Costarring John Schneider and Jasmine Guy, “October Baby” received a token release last October, bringing its cumulative returns to $1.9 million.
The film has collected mixed to negative reviews, scoring just 24% on Rotten Tomatoes. But the aggregation site reports that 93% of audiences liked the film, a better score than the widely praised blockbuster “The Hunger Games,” which earned an audience approval score of 87%, a bit better than its critical score of 85%.
The “October Baby” filmmakers believe the gulf between the reviewer and the ticket buyer scores dramatizes a rift between critics and conservative moviegoers. “What it tells me is that there’s a gap in values,” Jon Erwin said. “There’s a large group of people who don’t see their values reflected in most movies.”
Even though the brothers received unexpected donations of some $300,000 this week toward expanding “October Baby,” the movie’s release will still grow slowly. “We’re going to take it as wide as we can,” Jon Erwin said, “but one day at a time.”
-- John Horn
Photo: Rachel Hendrix in "October Baby." Credit: Samuel Goldwyn Films