‘Fireproof’ Earns Twice As Much As ‘Religulous’

Published 6 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.

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156 Comments - Comments are closed.

  1. It doesn’t surprise me that a Christian based movie made more $$$ then a film that is anti-religion. Simple; more religious people then non religious. Am I right?

  2. I checked the Numbers,

    Religulous was in 502 theatres.
    Fireproof was in 905 theatres.

    There is why they made about double. They had almost double the theaters!

  3. @JustMe

    Yeah, I’ve got time to wade through 16 reference articles. I looked through a couple and nowhere did I see anything about incorporating non-married, living together couples in to the stats.

    I reply politely and you come back with your “spoon feed” comment. Thanks for reinforcing my point of view.


  4. @JustMe

    60% more theaters – double the box office. Again, the POINT of this was that I was surprised that on a per theater and longevity/word of mouth basis that Maher’s film didn’t do better based on frankly, folks like you.


  5. Vic: That is such hogwash. Yes, it gets repeated over and over again but just doesn’t make sense.

    People weren’t crazy savages before the books of the bible started showing up hundreds of years after Jesus’s death.

    Morality can easily be sourced from the best actions for survival. What works better in a tribe, killing everyone around, or partnering up to defend each other (like most tribes who have no idea about jesus do)?

    I sure as heck don’t need a book to tell me to not kill, not steal, etc… But the bible also says I can rape your daughter, give her father some silver, and keep her for all my life. The bible has many things it says that aren’t the best way to live your life. (like killing your children who talk back to you)

  6. Um, most of the Bible was written thousands of years before Christ was born. It’s in the Old Testament that lawmaking and even government was established. You are taking things out of context and twisting their original meaning.

    Feel free to have the last word, because this is mine.

    Best regards,


  7. Vic, Well you are asking for someone to do your research for you then feed it back to you.

    Sounds like asking to be spoon fed.

  8. Vic, Out of context?!?!?!

    (Deuteronomy 22:28-29 NLT)
    “If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her.”

    Whoever strikes his father or mother shall be put to death. (Exodus 21:15 NAB)

    A priest’s daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death. (Leviticus 21:9 NAB)


  9. “Where do you think the entire basis for law originates? How about the concept of right and wrong? The Bible, bro.”
    If by Bible you mean the Torah, then yes, I agree wholeheartedly!

  10. 1. The Bible being the basis for right and wrong will be debatable forever. There are a ton of reasons why this is flawed logic. This is also a subject that is addressed fairly well in Religulous.

    2. The difference between “cramming offensive things down your throats” is that we don’t try to amend the constitution to do it. No one is *requiring* you to think or do things a certain way just because our religion says it is arbitrarily bad, like what is happening here in California with Prop 8.


  12. “internet man said,


  13. I also have to fall back on the fact that the two movies fall into two completely different types of movies.

    I will probably not pay to see either movie because one is not my type of entertainment and the other is not really meant to be entertainment.

    I would probably not go to see the documentary Religulous because I already know what Maher is trying to say. At first I thought he would take the tone that he often falls into in his performances of the last ten years. I feel he was a lot funnier when he used to point out hypocrisy and stupidity by asking the question “Isn’t this ridiculous? Aren’t we all smart for recognizing the stupidity?” Somewhere around ten years ago he started saying “This is stupid, I know the right way to do it, and you are stupid if you don’t agree with me.” It’s just not quite as funny now. I still watch even when his views are opposite of my own but now I watch to debate him in my head instead of expecting funny entertainment.

    However from what I have seen for the promotion of Religulous, he has toned it way down to the way he used to do it. He is not making fun of faith, he is making fun of religion. He is doing it by asking believers to describe what they believe in and then asking them the next logical question based on their statements until they reach the limits of their knowledge or admit that it makes no sense.

    He does not search out idiots to make fun of, he even goes to the Vatican.

    The movie ultimately points out that the Dogma of every religion is no more profound than the story of Santa Clause.

    If you are a person of faith that is comfortable with the idea that your religion’s tenets are an allegory to direct a good spiritual life then you should have no problem with the movie. If you have more fundamentalist beliefs that your religion’s dogma is literally true, you would probably be offended by this movie.

    I would probably be offended or at least annoyed by a story like Fireproof because I have never been tested to the point that I felt that I needed outside help to muster the conviction of my beliefs. Maybe some day but not likely. To me that type of story always feels like a cop out.

  14. Hey Vic.
    First time reader, and I’m already posting. Look at that!
    I would never say that any two movie’s BO SHOULDn’t be compared, but I think the nature of these films should be examined.
    One is an action film that opened on many more screens with a pretty strong word of mouth grass roots advertising campaign, and one is a (comedic) documentary with a more traditional Comedy Central centered advertising scheme. If we just follow basic trends, action movies trump docu, and more screens equals more money.

    I haven’t seen Fireproof, but I did see Religulous. In the film (and in his appearances promoting the film) Mahr made NO bones about the fact that he wasn’t really out to “change minds”, but to appeal to the reason of people like Agnostics and Atheists (about 15% depending on survey).

    If by your logic we’re comparing themes and the “tone” of the country, then Religulous should appeal to about 15% of the USA, and Fireproof should appeal to closer to 77%.

    Lastly, I know of several Agnostics who would rather go see an action movie regardless of theme, then watch some dude talk at them.

    Just sayin…

  15. @SomeAudioGuy

    Welcome to the site. :-)

    If people are under the impression that I didn’t think this would generate a heated discussion, they are very mistaken. I just think that these things can be debated in a civil manner.


  16. @Vic

    That’s why I tried to work demographic numbers. Working in LA, I believe most things come down to demo…

  17. Maher says he is agnostic so nobody can discredit the film by saying he’s an atheist with something to prove. A real agnostic, who claims to “not know,” would not be so quick to put down something he “doesn’t know” about. If you truly don’t know, and you go make fun of it, then what if it’s true and now you’re going to hell? Obviously he thinks he knows or else he wouldn’t have made that movie.

    I’m an agnostic, and I don’t put down ANY religion. I don’t care how “strange” it might seem to me, you can’t prove a negative so anything is possible. I believe in science and evolution, because those things you can observe and prove, but just by proving those things, that doesn’t disprove the supernatural. You won’t know until you’re dead.

  18. @Ken J

    “A real agnostic, who claims to “not know,” would not be so quick to put down something he “doesn’t know” about. If you truly don’t know, and you go make fun of it, then what if it’s true and now you’re going to hell? Obviously he thinks he knows or else he wouldn’t have made that movie.”

    Say that you have a box that came for you today. You do not know whether it contains anthrax. Does it follow then that you cannot ridicule people who believe the box contains anthrax? Can you not express your skepticism of that belief?

    If you don’t know and believe other people have no reasonable way to know, it seems reasonable to ridicule them when their belief leads to ridiculous actions.

  19. Ken J, I just wanted to mention that you’re assuming that Maher is putting something down without even watching the movie yourself.
    As plenty of posters have commented, he merely asks questions such as “Why?” in order to make people realise that sometimes they’re being a bit silly.

    If that’s putting something/one down, then Socrates was an asshole.

  20. I think it’s rather simple.

    One is an action/drama movie, one is a documentary. I think most people, when asked if they want to see an action/drama or a documentary movie, they’d choose the action/drama.

    In addition, I’m not sure if everyone who saw Fireproof knew that it had a Christian theme.

    There’s nothing to consider here and I don’t think you can draw any meaningful conclusion.

  21. I am sorry, but this article is pretty ridiculous. It is a pretty widely known concept that an over whelming majority of this country is christian. It’s obvious to anyone who doesn’t live under a rock why a christian themed movie would do better than an agnostic themed one. Clearly, typical Americans just would not want to see a movie that forces them to question their faith, and would much rather see something that adheres to it. Despite the fact that Religulous is not an attack, but more of a discussion on the topic of theism, the vast majority of this country is not interested. Although I don’t believe about only 10% of the US being atheist, it is still a very small minority, so naturally it can’t support a big movie like that.

  22. “Where do you think the entire basis for law originates? How about the concept of right and wrong? The Bible, bro.”

    Wait, who’s bible?
    Credit for rule of law,
    not yours.

  23. Double the theatres does NOT imply the ability to earn twice as much money or that a film will make twice as much money. In all reporting on theatrical gross you will see a per theatre number. Film execs track this number as it is a truer indicator of a films ability to earn. Subsequent bookings are partially based on this. In tracking Fireproof it has had a very good per theatre gross. Religulous did not have as good numbers therefore the fall off in theatres it was being shown in. Karen

  24. @Vic
    You said “Where do you think the entire basis for law originates? How about the concept of right and wrong? The Bible, bro.”

    There were laws before the bible.

    Also… as for right and wrong, although I understand a large amount of people take moral notices from the bible, right and wrong are a taught concept. Not from the bible but from moral people.

    I still haven’t had a chance to see both movies. I am trying hard to actually find a cinema that shows religulous, although i am not sure if it is out yet here in the UK.

  25. There are twice as many Christians as atheists so I would expect a religious movie to make twice the amount of an atheist movie.

  26. He’s asking people who believe in a religion to justify it. If someone would make a movie where they go around asking atheists and agnostics “why” and to justify why they believe in what they believe in, I’m sure you would make a comment about that as well. And yes, I’m sure some Christians have done that, and I wouldn’t really like that either.

    You say it’s ok to make a movie asking religious people why and then only showing the ones that are funny. What if I made a movie where I go around asking people why they are voting for whichever candidate you support, but not asking the ones supporting the other, and then I only show the ones with a funny response and don’t show the ones that are normal. You say I’m being objective and not trying to single anyone out?

    Answer that question.

    If this was fair and objective, wouldn’t he have been asking atheists how they are so sure there isn’t a God, how they have managed the impossible to prove a negative. Does he do that in this movie?

  27. @ empraptor

    Well, if you put this into the same perspective of religion, them believing there is anthrax in the box would not affect me as an “agnostic” or one who doesn’t know for sure. I would still open the box, but if they want to choose to believe that a box they receive might have anthrax and go get it tested that’s their perogative.

    I don’t think it’s a good comparison anyhow, since you can actually prove and disprove that, so it is pointless to make assumptions when the truth is just a knife cut away. Religion is something that cannot be proven nor can it be disproven. So nice try, you have two tries left. :-)

  28. Oops, meant prerogative, not perogative, missed a letter there, lol.

  29. “If this was fair and objective, wouldn’t he have been asking atheists how they are so sure there isn’t a God, how they have managed the impossible to prove a negative. Does he do that in this movie?”

    Atheism doesn’t tell me to believe in something we can’t see and touch. A lot of religions do. The burden of proof is on the religions if we start talking about “proofs”.

    I’m unable to prove non-existence of pink unicorns that defy laws of physics. But that doesn’t mean that my opinion that such things don’t exist somehow are on equal footing with pro-unicorn crowd because they can’t prove their existence either.