ALBANY, Ga. (Christian Examiner) -- The faith-based film "War Room" could be in for a huge opening weekend at the box office if data from two major ticket-selling websites is any indication.
The Kendrick Brothers' movie led every film in advance ticket sales Thursday on Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com, an extremely rare achievement for a Christian film. In fact, "War Room" also led Fandango.com ticket sales on Tuesday and Wednesday.
A "War Room" box office win this weekend would be a monumental upset, although "Straight Outta Compton" remains the favorite.
The Kendricks' most recent movies, "Courageous" and "Fireproof," opened at No. 4 in their first weekends. "War Room" seems headed for a Top 5 finish, although guessing box office rankings can be tricky. For example, church groups may be behind the impressive advance ticket sales for "War Room" – something that could fade into the weekend.
It's also tricky because movies don't complete on a level playing field. "War Room" will open in 1,135 theaters, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com. By comparison, two new films – "No Escape" (3,355) and "We Are Your Friends" (2,333) – will open in two to three times as many theaters. Plus, "Straight Outta Compton," which led the box office the past two weekends, is expected to continue an impressive run. It was in 3,025 theaters last weekend.
"War Room" is outpacing the ticket sales of 2008's "Fireproof," which remains the Kendricks' top opening weekend performer on a per-theater average.
"War Room" ticket sales caught the attention of Fandango chief correspondent Dave Karger, who in a news release surmised that an "underserved audience for the faith-based independent drama 'War Room' is powering that film past this week's more star-packed releases."
Fandango's "Fanticipation" movie buzz indicator gave "Straight Outta Compton" a 72, with "War Room" (70) in second and "No Escape" (65), "We Are Your Friends" (62) and "Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation" (60) rounding out the Top 5.
MovieTickets.com reported that War Room accounted for 27 percent of ticket sales Thursday, with "Straight Outta Compton" second at 11 percent. Despite that, most observers are picking "Straight Outta Compton" to win the box office this weekend. It grossed $26 million last weekend, and if it falls a standard 50 percent will rake in $13 million this weekend. By comparison, "Courageous" took in $9 million and "Fireproof" nearly $7 million on their opening weekends.
"War Room" had a production budget of $3 million, while "Straight Outta Compton" had a budget of $28 million. The budgets of new releases "New Escape" and "We Are Your Friends" have not been released, although "Mission Impossible" was made for $150 million.
Rated PG, "War Room" tells the story of a couple whose marriage is on the rocks when an elderly woman – Miss Clara – enters the picture. She encourages the wife to take all her burdens to God and to pray for her husband, no matter the circumstances. The movie gets its title from the nickname for Miss Clara's prayer closet – her "war room."
It stars T.C. Stallings and Priscilla Shirer as the husband and wife, and Karen Abercrombie as Miss Clara. Alex Kendrick, author Beth Moore and comedian Michael Jr. also have roles.
"The whole premise behind the film," Kendrick told the Christian Examiner, "is a parallel between a military war room, where they strategize and go out and implement the strategy on the field of battle against their enemy, and how we need to get alone with God and strategize to face all the issues in our lives."
The goal of the movie, he added, is to get Christians to make prayer a bigger priority.
"When I talk to other believers, almost all of them have something of a strategy for their finances, for their health, for their children's education, for their retirement," Kendrick said. "But if you ask them 'what's your strategy for prayer,' they look at you funny."