Decent start for ‘Machine Gun Preacher’

A gun-wielding Christian missionary packed heat at the box office this past weekend as “Machine Gun Preacher” got off to a respectable start in limited release.

The film — based on the real-life story of thug-turned-preacher Sam Childers, who traveled to Sudan to help children affected by the war there — opened in four theaters and collected $44,000, according to an estimate from distributor Relativity Media. That gives the movie, which played in New York and Los Angeles, a decent per-theater average of $11,000.

The picture’s U.S. distribution rights were sold by Lionsgate to Relativity in July. At that time a Lionsgate executive told The Times that the company’s film slate was too packed for “Machine Gun Preacher” to get the “attention it needed.” The film, which had a budget of about $30 million, is still being released internationally by Lionsgate.

The movie, directed by Marc Forster and starring Gerard Butler, appealed to a slightly more female audience this past weekend. A relatively older crowd appears to be most interested in seeing the movie, because 82% of the audience was 25 or older. Because of the picture’s strong religious themes, Relativity is marketing it to a faith-based audience. Some pastors are referring to the movie in their sermons, and the film has been screened for various church groups.


It remains to be seen whether that segment of the audience will turn up to see the film in large numbers next weekend, when the R-rated movie will expand to 15 markets, including Boston, Chicago and Houston.

— Amy Kaufman