‘Fireproof’ Earns Twice As Much As ‘Religulous’

Published 7 years ago by , Updated October 29th, 2008 at 6:12 pm,

fireproof religulous Fireproof Earns Twice As Much As Religulous

I went and saw Fireproof this weekend, the low budget Christian film starring Kirk Cameron. It cost all of $500,000 to produce thanks to tons of volunteer efforts and community donations. As far as I know Cameron refused a paycheck for appearing in the film.

It was written, produced and directed by Alex Kendrick, whose previous two films Facing the Giants and Flywheel (neither which I’ve seen) are both also Christian-centric films.

I haven’t seen Bill Maher’s Religulous, and honestly, have no desire to do so – at least for a few months. All this electioneering has my blood pressure spiking already and I don’t need to see Maher’s smarmy approach to belittling religion to put me over the top. Maybe once the election dust has settled and it’s no longer saturating the web I’ll feel up to it.

Expectedly, Religulous has been getting much better reviews than Fireproof. I can’t say I’m surprised due to a number of reasons – I’m sure the production values on Maher’s film are far higher than on Kendrick’s, and the Fireproof cast was populated by members of the local church… no professional actors outside of Kirk Cameron. And of course the subject matter and message of the film doomed it to critical panning overall, regardless – although I was surprised to see at least moderate recommendations from a couple of critics at the NY Times and Variety which looked past the obvious at the emotional impact of the film.

religulous interview Fireproof Earns Twice As Much As Religulous
Bill Maher conducts an interview in Religulous

What I found to be completely unexpected is the fact that Fireproof has earned twice as much at the box office as Religulous.

Both opening weekend box office numbers and total to date are as close to two-to-one as you can get. On their respective opening weekends (one week apart), the barely advertised Fireproof earned $6.8 million while the highly advertised Religulous earned only $3.4 million. As of the date of this post the numbers are $23.6MM vs $10.6MM.

And let’s not even get into the profit margin side of things. Fireproof had an ROI of $46 for every dollar spent while Religulous earned $4 for every dollar (probably less, if marketing is considered).

Granted, Fireproof opened on 60% more screens, but over ensuing weekends its numbers have dropped by a far lower margin due to word of mouth than Religulous.

A friend of mine who runs a movie news site asked (incredulously) how in the heck a movie like Fireproof could have a $6 million opening weekend. I would add to that how the heck did it manage to trounce Bill Maher’s anti-religion movie?

Sure, I’ve heard the “call to action” reasoning – churches exhorting their members to go out and see the film and support it. I can tell you that I heard no such announcement or mention at the church I attend. I didn’t even know about it until after it had already opened. Of course I’m not saying that didn’t happen, just that it didn’t happen at my church.

fireproof rescue Fireproof Earns Twice As Much As Religulous
Kirk Cameron rescues a child in Fireproof

What I do find interesting is that the movie has held up so well – this must be attributed to good word of mouth. Believe me when I tell you I was not looking forward to watching it, but my wife and I and another couple made a day of it, driving up to Park City. I was expecting a cheesy movie along the lines of the Left Behind movies – and while the acting was far from great (with a few surprising exceptions), I found the film to be much better put together than I expected.

And personally, I found it extremely moving and that surprised me big time.

Now if someone shows up to see this film who is a hard core athiest or an anti-religion/anti-Christian person, they’re going to hate it and its heavy slathering of “the message” starting at about the half way point. However for those who can set that aside, you’ll find a very emotionally intense film about the attempt of an estranged husband trying desperately to keep his marriage together.

I cannot speak to the content of Religulous – I’m sure it was quite enjoyable for fans of Bill Maher. But I’ll tell you what’s fascinating about all this to me… I spend a LOT of time online, and it gives one a skewed view of the population. I would say that people who don’t believe in God and are vocal about it probably outnumber believers by at least 5 to 1 online. There’s nothing scientific about that number, it’s just my impression from blogs and social networking sites that I frequent.

I say it’s skewed, because if that translated to “the real world” Religulous should have beat the crap out of Fireproof at the box office. By a very wide margin – especially considering TV commercials, trailers, etc.

But that didn’t happen.

I know that spending a lot of time online can cause us to think that this little “bubble” represents everyone out there, so maybe we should step back once and a while and remember that it doesn’t.

To some that will be disconcerting (and they’ll no doubt deny it), but to others it’s a comforting thought.

Get our free email alerts on the topics and author of this article:

156 Comments - Comments are closed.

1 2 3 6
  1. Warning up front: If the comments get out of line with personal attacks or insults from either side in this thread – I’ll drop them faster than a bad habit.

    We managed to have a civil conversation regarding “Expelled” and I hope we can do the same here.


  2. Sounds like a good see Vic, thanks.

    BTW I have never really liked Maher, mainly because I don’t think he’s that funny, so I doubt I ever see his movie.

  3. well, i was considering going to see Religulous but my friend told me it wasnt very funny at all. I havent seen fireproof either but my uncle(who is agnostic)told me it was a good movie, so ill believe him.

  4. Very similar to the whole Ron Paul running for Pres thing ealy last year, with all the ranting and raving his supporters were making online, I though for sure we might see something. The primaries proved otherwise.

  5. Regarding Maher: About 10-12 years ago he *seemed* to be more even-handed (that or back then I was more aligned with his views) and I enjoyed watching his late night TV show. I had the chance to go see him live and took my wife – we had great seats and were looking forward to his stand up routine.

    But when he came onstage it was one f-bomb after another. I mean I’m from Jersey and I used to cuss up a storm with the best of ’em, but I did not expect this at all and was actually embarrassed I’d brought my wife to see him.

    It was nothing like the TV show… more like he was trying to out-Murphy Eddie Murphy’s “Raw” stage show.

    Changed my opinion of the guy on the spot.


  6. mccain fans dont know how to use computers lol

  7. @michael

    Apparently this one does.


  8. I don’t like Maher. I know a lot of atheists, and none of them try and rain on my parade because I believe in God, none of them make fun of me. My one friend who is an atheist even told me he thinks people should at least follow the moral standards of the bible even if they don’t believe in God. I will say I haven’t seen either movie. I don’t personally like pushy believers that think I should go to church every sunday, but I dislike people making fun of other people and their faith even less so…

  9. Not sure why you were surprised that Fireproof made more Vic. Religulous is a documentary… documentaries do not make as much money as other films. Never. Doesn’t matter what the subject is.

    The highest grossing documentary of all time is Fahrenheit 9/11 and it only made $119 million, while the biggest grossing movie of all time made $600 million.

    And Fahrenheit was an aberration, not the norm. Religulous has made $10 million already. That makes it the 9th highest grossing documentary of all time.

    Where does Fireproof’s $23 million land it on the biggest movies of all time list?

    Two completely different types of films, not really comparable in this sense.

  10. Of course they’re comparable. They came out a week apart and they were diametrically opposed in their points of view. The commercials for Religulous pitched it as being funny, and you’d think that Maher has a pretty big fan base.

    Then again, maybe not so much.

    With all the pro/anti religion verbosity permeating the internet in general and specifically in regards to this election, I would have thought Religulous would have done much better.


  11. I find it fascinating that the public can sit and eat thier popcorn while viewing flicks like the rediculous “Saw” lot, but seem to get really worked up when something religion based is released into the theaters. I don’t prescribe to any particular religion, but as one of the many carbon based types running around this little rock I often do find myself hoping in my heart of hearts that everything will somehow work out for the benefit of all. Either by our own efforts or that of the workings of a benevolent or mysterious entity. Sometimes its better IMHO to look past the content of such a film and dial in on the message as it appears to you, and allowing others to do the same without fear of persecution or slight.

    I do believe that if there is in fact a GOD, that he certainly doesn’t take sides…

  12. Ok, lets look at the numbers. Approximately 250 million Americans claim some sect of Christianity. Only about 12%, or 30 million Americans, consider themselves to be Athiest/Agnostic.

    So, Fireproof was seen by approximately 2.4 million(assuming a $10 ticket cost) out of 250 million: Less than 1% of it’s core audience went to see it. By contrast, Religulous was seen by 1.1 million out of a target audience of 30 million, so 4% of it’s target audience went to see it. That means 4 Times as many Non-theists went to see “their” movie as Christians went to see “their” movie. (And Fireproof opened in 60% more theatres than Religulous)

    As an Athiest, that substantiates a number of thoughts i’ve had, as well as makes me smile in general. It’s a reflection of just how many lip-service christians there are out there.

    A movie opens, Made Just For Them, in a TON of theatres, and less than 1 percent bother to go see it. Religulous opens in less than half the amount theatres, aimed at a small minority, and manages to garner the support of 4 times more of it’s core audience. I consider that a huge success.

    And as far as Religulous having “Higher production values”… Not even close. You can just watch the Trailers for each movie and easily see that Fireproof has ALOT more production value and Hollywood-trickery behind it. Religulous is filmed like a documentary, meaning most times, there’s just a guy holding the camera. No cranes, no theatrics, no special effects, no make-up, no special lighting, No professional actors… NONE of the frills of Fireproof.

    Though we might disagree on Theology, I think these facts paint a clearer picture of these two movies, especially as they relate to each other.

    In addition, I thought Religulous was Hilarious, and so did my christian brother. Granted, it will certainly ruffle your feathers a bit if you practice a religion, but if a movie will ruffle your feathers That Bad, then you might want to rethink the conviction of your faith in the first place. Plus, I believe you have to shake yourself up every now and then, I think it’s good for you. To hold on to something just because you’ve always held on to it is a bad reason, and it’s always good to go back and re-examine things to know how they fit in your life, if they still apply to you, Why you feel how you feel, etc. You gotta shake things up every now and then.

    Anyway, just some points to ponder.

  13. Wow Vic, I’m sure you’re familiar with the political ad that michael is referring to. The one where they make fun of McCain for not using computers. Well, McCain does use them, and knows how to use them, he simply doesn’t like to since he can’t type due to arthritis he has from his war injuries. I broke my wrist a few years ago. I’m not old, but because of that injury, I get arthritis on my wrist, and yes, it hurts if I type a lot, but since it’s only one wrist, I manage anyhow. But McCain broke both his arms SERVING OUR COUNTRY and these people insult him for his war injuries. Do you throw tennis shoes at the first legless veteran you see as well? How appalling.

    Anyway, about the film, I haven’t watched either one, but I would say if I had to, I would definitely watch Fireproof. I will not give my money to some attack movie like Maher’s retarded film. I’m not religious, and I’m sure I will find most of what Fireproof says pretty corny, but at least they are celebrating something and not senselessly attacking something. I’m agnostic, but I hate when some atheist is talking crap about religion. It’s their BELIEF and I believe that everyone has their right to believe in whatever religion they choose, including my right to not pick sides, and the atheists’ right to not believe. But on the same note, I respect religious people more than atheists since at least they are picking to stand FOR something and not simply standing AGAINST something like atheists do.

    I think that shapes me political views too. I’d rather elect someone who is standing for a certain ideal than those who simply oppose everything. Even if I don’t happen to believe in some of the things they do, it’s better than having a weak president that can’t stand for anything.

    I’m glad Fireproof earned more money than Religulous. What is Maher going to do with the money? Donate it to a certain political candidate? Buy another personal jet? At least with Fireproof, maybe it might just inspire some people, who knows. I see no harm done. But attacking people for being religious is just mean-spirited.

    Why do we have more and more of these stupid comedians thinking they can tell us what to think about politics and religion like Bill Maher and Al Franken. When I see people like that, I see clowns, I don’t take advice from clowns, do you?

  14. What an interesting discussion… particularly given our early emails about me writing for Screen Rant, hey Vic? ;o)

    Meanwhile… I’m still waiting on even a HINT of a release date for ‘Religulous’ here in Australia but I’ve heard it’s not the “smarmy” or “belittling” film it at first seems… but rather a series of genuine questions aimed at ALL religions. It’s certainly not a ‘Borat’-style “gotcha” film, as first assumed… and even religious people have reportedly found it more enjoyable than offensive.

    But as for ‘Fireproof’… really? I saw the trailer when looking on YouTube at some of the cringe-worthy things Kirk Cameron says and does these days* and I’m surprised it even got a cinema release. In fact, if it wasn’t for its religious “message”, it looks like it would barely have stood out alongside ‘Snowman’s Pass’ and ‘Ring Girls’ (a pair of straight-to-DVD releases I had the “pleasure” of reviewing last year). ‘Fireproof’ strikes me as a Hallmark telemovie in ‘The Passion’ clothing – nothing more, nothing less.

    (* Silly even to deeply religious people I know of, by the way…)

  15. Ken J… just one little thing, since I believe Vic doesn’t want this to be a place for insulting peoples’ beliefs…

    Atheism is not “simply standing AGAINST something”. If you actually look into it, it CAN BE as much a passionate belief system as any. That is… by believing strongly in a conscious creator NOT existing, Atheists believe in nature and scientific reasoning as the highest “authority” (for want of a better word) and find endless fascination in the idea that the answers to life’s questions are infinite. Just when you discover the origin of one thing, there’s more to learn… and more… and more. I, for one, find a great deal of peace and wonder in that.

    Yes, the side-effect is obviously a tendency to “shoot down” religious faiths… but I don’t think that’s any different to a Christian proselytising to an Agnostic… or a Jehovah’s Witness door-knocking.

    Don’t be so quick to pass judgement on a belief system you clearly do not understand.

  16. No one at my church told me to go see it either.

    I am rather surprised to read this story though. If a friend had mentioned this in casual conversation, I would never have believed them.
    I completely agree with you. I often feel like too many people automatically discount the opinion of Christians just because of what we believe. I really wish people could stop attacking what certain groups may believe just because they disagree. I have atheist friends as well as Christian friends. I just dont talk belief systems with my atheist friends.

    If you don’t believe, just don’t comment on it.

  17. Oh, don’t get me wrong Deadpool…

    I OFTEN discount the opinions of people’s religions – in fact, I make it my life’s work – but I welcome them to discount mine and want both sides to have a solid backup. Without debate and genuine questions, I don’t think we can grow or learn.

    Having said that, this is not my personal space… and Vic’s asked for respect… so I was merely pointing out that even Atheists deserve that. Discounting them as “not standing for anything” is an absolute farce.

  18. I agree with Kane, not because im an atheists but I believe in not judging a book by its cover. I’m not trying to attack you Ken but I dont find it right for someone to attack another belief, and even if they were talking “crap” about another religion in the movie, you just let it go.

    I havent seen either of these movies but I will probably wait till they come out on dvd.

  19. Kane, I also believe in science and evolution and all of that, but my question to you as an agnostic is how can you be so sure that science and evolution wasn’t “created” by a higher power so there appears to be a “logical” explanation for it? What exactly is “logical” anyway? What you think is common sense, physics, or science, could all have been created by God if he is all powerful.

    I don’t actually believe that, but you can’t disprove it. One can say that God created all of this science and scientific ways to explain everything so that the people who still believe are people acting on faith and not simply because there’s no other explanation. It kind of proves their devotion. Think about it, if God actually came to earth and showed everyone that he exists, then people will believe simply because they know it’s true, not because of faith like it’s supposed to be.

    Anyway, just making a point that you can’t prove a negative. It’s PHYSICALLY impossible to prove a negative, lol. But like I’ve said, that’s not actually my personal belief. I choose to not pick sides, there could be a God, there could be multiple gods, there could be no god, who knows… I’ll find out when I die. :-)

  20. I think Maher is a terrific comedian with a sharp mind. I haven’t seen Religulous yet but I do expect to rent it , eventually .

    I saw Maher promoting the film on The Hour ( CBC ) recently and it seems to me that he feels his perspective (as an atheist/agnostic ) is under-represented.
    Discussing ( or even promoting ) religion is a very common and accepted thing. Atheists are , I think , often regarded scornfully and perhaps even considered subversive .

    I do feel that faith can be a very valuable and important part of a person’s life.
    I also feel that its very important to think for yourself and to learn what else is out there. In most aspects of life there’s more than one way to do things.

    As for Maher making fun of the religous ……….well , the man IS a comedian. Thats just naturally going to be his approach to most any topic .
    He’s promoting a movie , so he will try to push as many peoples buttons as he can . If you agree with him and go see his movie , great , that helps his project ; if you disagree with him and phone Larry King to say so , that helps his project too.
    In show biz ( with the right spin ) there’s no such thing as bad PR.
    His ” jokes ” cannot diminish the power or significance that your faith has in your life. So, don’t let him piss you off , people :)

  21. That’s funny Jess, I was just saying that it isn’t right for people to attack other peoples’ beliefs… Thanks for agreeing with me?? 😀

  22. Oh wow you lost me im so confused you can just ignore my last comment im haveing a really off day lol

  23. Ken… I don’t think it’s really the place to debate religious philosophy but trust me when I say I’ve heard all the arguments and so far I’ve found each and every one fundamentally unsound.

    To answer your question about proving a negative though… look up something called “the celestial teapot” or “the flying spaghetti monster”. These things are ludicrously silly (or are they not?)… but they do make the very valid point that just because something’s existence cannot be disproven, doesn’t mean it’s not REASONABLE to disbelieve it.

    And Atheism has various interpretations… one being the complete “I KNOW FOR SURE there is no God” angle and the other “I REJECT the idea of a God, based on what I know and understand” angle. Nothing in this world can be known for absolute certain – just look at medical improvements since the days of Deadwood, less than 150 years ago – but we can move forward based on the knowledge we’ve ascertained thus far… and make reasonable projections as to what is likely the truth. As an Atheist, I actually am open to the idea of a conscious creator… ON THE CONDITION that if I believe in that, then I have to ALSO ask who or what created that. If the answer is “no one – God just simply IS and ALWAYS HAS BEEN”, then the logical counter argument is “then why can’t nature and the universe not simply BE and ALWAYS HAS BEEN?” At some point, logic has to reconcile if you choose to use logic as ammunition.

    Alternatively, you can have faith in a book and what your community has always taught you… and I’m okay with faith if it comes purely from what I guess you’d call “gut instinct”. If your journey has led you to faith, then – in some ways – I envy your conviction. But until that faith is put through the the full and unbiased wringer of rational questioning and scientific evidence, I don’t think it should dictate the progress of otherwise peaceful and non-religious people’s lives.

    That is why I say I’m Atheist – because I’m passionate about making sure our society is not governed by what could well be viewed in the year 6008 in the same light as we today view the ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman religions and those practiced by native Americans and Australian Aborigines.

    It’s not about offending people for the sake of it… it’s about trying to find the truth through looking at EVERY angle… and I think that’s what Bill Maher tries to do, when you truly look beyond his acerbic sense of humour.

  24. I just got back from watching Fireproof… it was great to see such a different-flavored movie on the regular, big screen; this occurred to me as i dashed out to go to the bathroom in the middle of the movie, and walked by the pain-filled screaming coming from the Saw 5 theater

  25. @Matt

    That’s a straw man argument if I ever heard one. So only ATHIESTS were going to turn out to see Maher’s movie? Not agnostics, Christians-in-name-only, etc.?

    Heck if just the anti-religious members of the Digg community showed up to see the movie it probably would have beat “Fireproof” easily.


  26. It’s just the wrong time for Religulous. Bill Mauher’s political affiliation mixed with how close it is to the election just tells me the intention was to do nothing more than act “controversial”.

    What I’d like to know though is how much time is spent attacking which faith.

  27. Vic I can still insult Bill Maher can’t I????

    Fireproof is more of a movie where as Bills home movie is a pile of steaming crap,,, (who wants that?)

    (Myself) I would never see Fireproof, just because its a story/topic I don’t care for…
    It hardly matters to me if a religious group receives the profits from the film,,, sheesh its better than Disney or Sony !
    Bill Maher, has always been a No-talent hack, and a vulgar tool…
    I don’t like him!

    Basically I wouldn’t see ether one of these “films”…

    Oh and I love sleeping in on Sundays,,, 😎

  28. I’m an atheist/agnostic who saw Bill Maher’s movie cuz I heard it was funny. I was reluctant cuz I think Bill Maher is an arrogant dousche usually, but I actually really liked it. I can’t back this up, so I might be wrong, but I actually thought he was pretty respectful the whole time. He was definitely honest and logic the whole time.

    To be fair, during the ONLY religious argument brought up that I actually related to (being formerly Jewish) was about an Orthodox anti-Zionist, he made the guy look dumb. I happen to know there’s a lot of logic behind that guy’s argument, so as far a I know every other religious argument was wrongly torn apart to a certain extent. I happen to not believe that to be the case, but it’s definitely possible.

    While I understand the anger towards arrogant atheists, and I know there are many of them, I do feel there’s some logic to the “anti-religion crusade,” basically if it influences politics. But, I’m a hardcore libertarian: religion doesn’t lead to violence, government leads to violence, and they regularly hijack religion to do so.

  29. Oh wait a sec. my Spellcheck software just got a laugh out of the title

    Mission acomplished turd, I mean D bag ,,, Bill,,,

    Damn Spellcheck was taking over, nothing I could do,,,

1 2 3 6