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Fireproof Hits Canada
The movie Fireproof became the fourth bestseller in the United States its first weekend and had the largest box office takes of films released on 1,000 screens or less.

The pro-marriage feature film Fireproof, released last September in American theatres, has unleashed a minor firestorm of its own. While most rave about it – with American audiences cheering at screenings and thousands of personal stories of change on the official website – others have been dismissive. Chat board comments range from “finally a movie that empowers people never to give up in their commitments” to “absolutely horrifying” and “lame.”

Gene Tempelmeyer, pastor of Toronto’s Spring Garden Baptist Church, which screened the film in early April, admits he has low tolerance for “Christian cheese” but found the movie better than expected.

The story follows a young couple who have drifted to the verge of divorce. Firefighter Caleb Holt (Kirk Cameron) is courageous at work but not in marriage, while his wife Catherine (Erin Bethea) openly courts the attentions of a co-worker.

Caleb’s father, John (Harris Malcolm), asks him to consider doing the Love Dare – 40 days of increasingly challenging love exercises. Caleb does, eventually understanding what it means to love unconditionally.

Reportedly costing $500,000 to make – thanks to the volunteer cast and crew – the movie became the fourth bestseller in the United States its first weekend and had the largest box office takes of films released on 1,000 screens or less. In Canada, the movie was released in churches and media outlets. Life 100.3, a radio station in Barrie, Ontario, purchased screening rights to show in area churches because the “timing was perfect,” says promotions manager Jen Taylor. “We hear more and more about marriages struggling.”

The response has been “bigger than expected,” Taylor adds. “We only planned on doing a few shows but [with] the demand … we wanted to make sure as many people as possible were able to see this movie.” They ended up with 15 screenings.

Centre St. Church in Calgary had a similar experience. Four viewings in March drew a total audience of 3,244, sold 422 copies of the movie, 700 books and 21 Love Dare Bible study guides.

“The movie surprised me. Most of the time you think you’ve seen it all but this one hit home with its bluntness,” says Deb Mitchell, communications director for Centre St.

“It dealt with two issues – relationships that develop in the workplace and Internet pornography – in a meaningful way,” says Tempelmeyer. “It was as if this couple were living out things that I keep seeing walk through my office door.”

But it’s the Love Dare study book – non-existent until the demand from the movie drove the producers to write it – that Tempelmeyer credits with improving marriages. “Because I’ve had couples doing the book for about a month, they have noticed temperature changes in their marriage.”

The book pre-sold 600,000 copies and currently sits at number ten on amazon.com. Both movie and book are being promoted on the Canadian Marriage and Family Network, whose mission is “to inspire and equip churches in Canada to transform marriages and families one congregation at a time.”

Originally published in Faith Today, May/June 2009.

 

 
 
 
 

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