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Group ticket sales could ignite 'Fireproof'

September 23, 2008 |  6:17 pm

Fp_pk_poster_6 Sure, “Fireproof,” starring Kirk Cameron as a  firefighter struggling to save his marriage, is preaching to the choir — but it’s a big choir. Thanks to grass-roots support and bulk purchases from churchgoers, the faith-based drama could make an impact at the box office this weekend and beyond. The film, from Sherwood Pictures, producer of the under-the-radar, Christian-themed success “Facing the Giants” from 2006, has been No. 1 in advance sales on movie ticketing site with 31% of this week's business, albeit in a slow marketplace — even outpacing sales for the big-budget popcorn thriller "Eagle Eye," starring heartthrob Shia LaBeouf.

Ctlogo_2Nobody expects “Fireproof,” which distributor Samuel Goldwyn Films will open Friday at 800-plus theaters, to replicate the phenomenon of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” which jolted the movie industry by grossing $83.8 million during its first weekend in 2004. Nor will it challenge DreamWorks/Paramount’s “Eagle Eye,” which is widely expected to be this weekend’s top grossing movie. (For the skinny on that and the other major Hollywood releases, don't forget to read the Movie Projector column this Friday.) Indeed, the micro-budget "Fireproof" production might have a hard time even cracking the top 10 at the box office this weekend.

But it could open at least as well as “Facing the Giants,” a high-school football saga that launched to $1.3 million and kept on playing, riding word-of-mouth to an ultimate gross of $10.2 million and robust business on DVD. Advance sales for “Fireproof” are much stronger, its marriage theme is more universal and the movie opens on twice as many screens, notes Michael Silberman, Goldwyn’s head of distribution. “The appetite is there but the meal has to be a good one,” Silberman says.

-- Josh Friedman