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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.

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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


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