'War Room' stuns Hollywood for historic No. 1 spot over Labor Day weekend

by Michael Foust, Guest Reviewer |
War Room, the highly anticipated fifth film of Alex and Stephen Kendrick tells the powerful story of transformational prayer. | Screenshot War Room trailer

HOLLYWOOD (Christian Examiner) -- The faith-based film "War Room" continued to stun Hollywood observers this weekend, with a historic climb to No. 1 a week after it appeared to have missed its best chance at the top spot.

The Kendrick Brothers production finished in first place with an estimated $9.3 million, besting "Straight Outta Compton" ($8.8 million) – which was No. 1 last weekend – along with No. 3 "A Walk In The Woods ($8.4 million), No. 4 "Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation" ($7.15 million) and No. 5 "The Transporter Refueled" ($7.13 million).

The win by "War Room" was historic, according to data at BoxOfficeMojo.com and the first weekend win for a faith-based film since 2010's "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader."

War Room

But if other criteria is used – such as a film having explicit biblical content and not simply being allegorical – then 2004's "The Passion of the Christ" was the most recent win for a Christian movie.

"Passion" had a $30 million budget, however, and "Dawn Treader" was made for $155 million. "War Room" had a production budget of only $3 million.

The surprising hit grabbed the attention of mainstream media. The Los Angeles Times said the "War Room" win was a "surprise twist" to the weekend. Deadline.com posted a story with the headline: "War Room' Hits The Hallelujah At The Labor Day Box Office & Conquers 'Compton.'"

Despite "War Room" being trashed by mainstream reviewers in recent weeks, moviegoers have embraced it. "War Room" received an A+ rating in the CinemaScore exit polling. No other movie currently in theaters was graded that high.

To be fair, the box office for "War Room" has benefited from a fairly light couple of weekends, with no "Spiderman"-type blockbuster movies opening. Still, during that time span it has beaten four new releases, all of which had much higher production budgets.

"War Room" climbed to No. 1 on the strength of it opening in an additional 391 new theaters, which helped it drop only 17 percent from its first weekend. The industry average fall from a first to second weekend is around 50 percent.

"War Room" is made by the same director and producer – Alex and Stephen Kendrick -- who were behind "Courageous," "Fireproof" and "Facing the Giants."

"Alex and I dedicated ourselves to the Lord when we were teenagers: 'God what do you want to do with our lives?' Alex had a life-long dream of making films that he died to as he went into ministry," Stephen Kendrick told the Christian Examiner.

It appeared the studio behind "War Room" had missed its best opportunity at a top spot on opening weekend, when it ended up No. 2 behind "Straight Outta Compton."

"War Room" opened in only 1,135 theaters compared to 3,142 for "Compton." A few hundred more theaters almost certainly would have given "War Room" a win, then, too.

Looking ahead to next weekend, another faith-based film movie opens: "90 Minutes In Heaven," based on the best-selling book by Don Piper.


'War Room' convicts, inspires - and makes you laugh