Last weekend, two smaller independent films opened in limited release. Both deal with sexual addictions. Both hold up Jesus as central to their characters’ transformation. One featured the former star of Growing Pains, Kirk Cameron and a cast of nonprofessional actors. The other won a Special Jury Prize at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival for an ensemble cast that includes Angelica Huston, Sam Rockwell, Clark Gregg and Kelly McDonald. One arose from the famed pen of Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club. The other came from two brothers at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia. So guess which movie surpassed expectations and surprised Hollywood this weekend?
Evidently, sex doesn’t sell (or at least, not as depicted in graphic detail within edgy, independent films). Fireproof debuted at number four on the weekend box office charts. It earned almost $7,000,000 in three days with a per screen average of over $8,000. Choke didn’t crack the top ten, netting $3000 per screen and $1.3 million total. Fireproof will offer a massive windfall for tiny Samuel Goldwyn Films. It is already hugely profitable compared to its modest $500,000 budget. Choke will not duplicate the Sundance success of comedies like Napoleon Dynamite or Little Miss Sunshine for Fox Searchlight. They will struggle to recoup their $5 million purchase. What made one film click with moviegoers while the other fizzled?