Q&A: Provident Films' Kris Fuhr on October Baby's opening & why faith movies are succeeding

Baptist Press
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Posted: Mar 26, 2012 5:52 PM
Q&A: Provident Films' Kris Fuhr on October Baby's opening & why faith movies are succeeding
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- When "October Baby" rolled to a Top 10 finish on its opening weekend, it further demonstrated that faith-based movies can be successful in theaters on a regular basis -- and that Provident Films, which marketed the film to Christian audiences, knows the formula.

October Baby finished No. 8 overall, despite playing in only 390 theaters when the other Top 10 movies played in an average of 2,500 theaters. But more impressive, October Baby ended up No. 3 on a per-theater average with an average gross of $4,352.

It was but the latest successful movie promoted by Provident Films, which -- when including October Baby -- has seen its last five movies crack the Top 10 on a per-theater average. Provident Films also promoted "Facing the Giants" (2006), "Fireproof" (2008), "Courageous" (2011) -- all of which were made by Georgia's Sherwood Baptist Church -- and "The Grace Card" (2011).

Perhaps even more significant, the solid showings by Grace Card and October Baby show that Provident's success is not limited to Sherwood films. The Grace Card was made largely by volunteers from Calvary Church, a Nazarene congregation in Memphis, while October Baby was directed and produced by the Christian brother team of Jon and Andrew Erwin.

Kris Fuhr, vice president of theatrical marketing for Provident, said October Baby was successful despite that fact that several of the top-targeted markets -- Ohio, North Carolina and Kentucky, for instance -- had basketball teams still playing in the NCAA tournament, perhaps pulling fans' attention from the theaters.

When combining a good movie with a wise marketing strategy, she says, faith-based films can be successful.

Baptist Press talked to Fuhr about Provident's string of success, asking why Provident has been successful. Following is a transcript:

BAPTIST PRESS: October Baby finished the weekend in the Top 10 and No. 3 at per-theater average. Were you satisfied with its opening?

KRIS FUHR: Thrilled. We were on 390 screens, with everybody else on thousands of screens. We couldn't be happier.

BP: What does a theater owner -- and Provident -- consider a successful opening? October Baby was at $4,352 on a per-theater average. Grace Card was at $2,870. Courageous and Fireproof each were at about $8,000. Are all those successful?

FUHR: We always look to do over $3,000 per screen. That's about where Giants opened. And we look at where we rank in the multiplex against all the movies that are playing. People laughed at us for coming out against "The Hunger Games," but because no one else did, it really made for a nice weekend where there were a lot of movies that had been in theaters for a long time and were on the decline, and so we were something new, and certainly audiences reacted and loved the movie. We did very well across the United States. I was very pleased with the data.

BP: How does Provident enter into a partnership with a film? Is it before the film is made or after?

FUHR: It depends on the film. Some movies we get involved with very early on, and other movies we get involved with after they're finished. So it really depends on the project.

BP: It seems you're demonstrating that this isn't just a Sherwood Baptist thing.

FUHR: Absolutely.

BP: What has been your secret to having a string of successes?

FUHR: When Fireproof did well, there was a secular commentator that said, "You know how these people did well? They worked really hard." I think that really is our key. Our team is spread out across the country, and we worked very hard on this film on a national basis, and then we work very hard on it in the markets that we're personally involved in. You get to know the people in those markets. We stay involved with many of those folks. We invited them to the sets of our movies. We're Facebook friends with them. They join us on the prayer calls we do around the films.

BP: But you're not talking to every individual moviegoer. How are you getting the word out to these individual moviegoers?

FUHR: It's through the action squads , it's through pastors, it's through the pre-screenings. For October Baby we had over 150 screenings before the movie ever opened. So, many people embraced the movie personally and shared the word with folks.

BP: Does Provident have more screenings to more people than most movies have?

FUHR: Yes, I would say we definitely do. I think The Hunger Games only had 26 screenings.

BP: You had 150 for October Baby. Was that number similar to Fireproof and Courageous?

FUHR: It was very similar to Fireproof. For Courageous, we did close to 300.

BP: So you're showing these movies to leaders and hoping that they like it and then spread the word to their audience.

FUHR: Absolutely. We had our prayer call on Thursday morning, and there were people from all over the country -- churchgoers and community leaders who just got on the phone and prayed with us. We were all weeping, because it was so wonderful to hear these voices from Mississippi and North Dakota and California -- people who wanted to get on the phone and lift the movie up to the Lord.

BP: Is this also a case where you're building on previous success? Fireproof was successful, Courageous was successful.

FUHR: I think it shows that Provident and what we're doing is becoming more of a brand. People trust our films, and they know that what we're going to bring them is something that not only is going to be personally inspiring but is going to be a wonderful outreach tool.

BP: What's the next theatrical release? Have you decided?

FUHR: We have not. We're looking at several things.

Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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