Box Office: 'War Room' Stuns With $11 Million, Zac Efron's 'We Are Your Friends' Tanks
By Brent Lang
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - The box office underwent a religious conversion this weekend as Christian crowds flocked to "War Room," lifting the low-budget salute to prayer above the Zac Efron drama "We're You're Friends" and the Owen Wilson thriller "No Escape."
Filmed for a mere $3 million and distributed by Sony's Affirm division, "War Room" more than tripled its production budget in a single weekend, picking up $11 million from 1,135 locations. That also easily topped projections that had it debuting in the $4 million to $5 million range, although in retrospect those estimates were overly conservative given that advance ticket sales were unusually strong.
"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," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak.
The film is the latest faith-based hit from director Alex Kendrick and his brother, writing and producing partner Stephen Kendrick, the pair behind "Fireproof" and "Courageous." It marks the biggest debut of their careers.
"There is so much love for this film," said Rory Bruer, Sony's distribution chief. "It starts with the Kendricks. They're visionaries in this genre."
Despite the success of the "War Room," "Straight Outta Compton" topped charts for a third consecutive weekend, becoming the first film to manage that feat since "Jurassic World." The rap biopic about the early days of N.W.A. pulled in an impressive $13.2 million, pushing its domestic total to $134.1 million. It is now the highest-grossing musical biopic, trumping the Johnny Cash drama "Walk the Line" and its $119.5 million domestic haul.
"War Room" reaffirms the potency of faith-based crowds, ranking along previous hits such as "God's Not Dead" and "Heaven is for Real," but aside from its success, there was very little to celebrate.
The month of August sputtered to a close as the trio of new releases failed to inject much life into ticket sales. The overall box office was down more than 20% from the year-ago period when "Guardians of the Galaxy" was still drawing big crowds. That comparison is problematic, however, given that Labor Day fell during that period and the holiday has been pushed back a week this year. Continued...