Christian movie beats Zac Efron at the box office

2015-08-31 15:32

New York  — The Christian drama War Room made a surprise bid for the box-office lead, Zac Efron's music drama We Are Your Friends fell completely flat and the N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton keeps chugging along.

Universal's Straight Outta Compton topped the box office for the third-straight week with $13.2m at North American theatres over the weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday. The film, which has now made $134.1m in total, has continued to dominate August moviegoing. It joins Jurassic World as the only movies to lead the box office three consecutive weeks this summer.

The late August weekend held scant competition for Straight Outta Compton, but War Room nearly matched it. The Sony TriStar release took in $11m by appealing to faith-based audiences, an often powerful but underserved demographic at the multiplex. War Room is about an African-American family who perseveres through prayer.

"We knew that we were going to get a lot of love, we just didn't expect quite this much love," said Rory Bruer, head of distribution for Sony. "This is a genre that we're very much committed to."

The film, directed by Alex Kendrick, is the highest opening yet for Affirm Films, a production company that has had previous success with low-budget films that pull in Christian audiences through grassroots marketing.

So the success of War Room wasn't overly surprising. Faith-based films have regularly performed well at the box office, and War Room capitalised on an especially quiet movie weekend.

But thoroughness of the flop of We Are Your Friends was unusual. The Warner Bros. release, an electronic dance music drama, wasn't expected to do especially well and wasn't much promoted.

But the Efron-led film opened with just $1.8m on 2 333 screens (more than twice the number of War Room). That makes it one of the lowest weekend openings ever for a film that played so widely.

"August can be a land of opportunity or it can be your worst nightmare," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office firm Rentrak.

Whereas We Are Your Friends got lost in the shuffle of a traditionally quiet period for the movie business, Dergarabedian said, War Room used its late-summer, little-competition release date to its advantage. War Room, Dergarabedian said, further proves the box-office strength of faith-based moviegoers: "They are looking for content. If you build it, they will come."

No Escape, the Thailand thriller starring Owen Wilson and Lake Bell, opened with $8.3m for the Weinstein Co.

In its fifth weekend, Paramount's Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation also earned $8.3m to bring its North American total to $170.4m.

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