Box Office: ‘War Room’ Stuns With $11 Million, Zac Efron’s ‘We Are Your Friends’ Tanks

We Are Your Friends Movie
Courtesy of Warner Bros.

The box office underwent a religious conversion this weekend as Christian crowds flocked to “War Room,” lifting the low-budget salute to prayer above the Zac Efron drama “We Are You’re Friends” and the Owen Wilson thriller “No Escape.”

Filmed for a mere $3 million and distributed by Sony’s Affirm division, “War Room” more than tripled its production budget in a single weekend, picking up $11 million from 1,135 locations. That also easily topped projections that had it debuting in the $4 million to $5 million range, although in retrospect those estimates were overly conservative given that advance ticket sales were unusually strong.

“These are the kind of outlier events that happen and wake everyone up to the fact that faith-based audiences are passionate and looking for content,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak.

The film is the latest religious-themed hit from director Alex Kendrick and his brother, writing and producing partner Stephen Kendrick, the pair behind “Fireproof” and “Courageous.” It marks the biggest debut of their careers.

“There is so much love for this film,” said Rory Bruer, Sony’s distribution chief. “It starts with the Kendricks. They’re visionaries in this genre.”

Despite the success of “War Room,” “Straight Outta Compton” topped charts for a third consecutive weekend, becoming the first film to manage that feat since “Jurassic World.” The rap biopic about the early days of N.W.A pulled in an impressive $13.2 million, pushing its domestic total to $134.1 million. It is now the highest-grossing musical biopic, trumping the Johnny Cash drama “Walk the Line” and its $119.5 million domestic haul.

“War Room” reaffirms the potency of the faith-based market, ranking along previous hits such as “God’s Not Dead” and “Heaven is for Real,” but aside from its success, there was very little to celebrate. The month of August sputtered to a close as the trio of new releases failed to inject much life into ticket sales. The overall box office was down more than 20% from the year-ago period when “Guardians of the Galaxy” was still drawing big crowds. That comparison is problematic, however, given that Labor Day fell during that period and the holiday has been pushed back a week this year.

“No Escape,” a thriller about an American family ensnared in a violent political coup in a nameless Asian country, finished in fourth place with $8.2 million from 3,355 locations. It has earned $10.2 million since debuting on Wednesday. The Weinstein Company paid just under $5 million for rights to the film, which was criticized by some critics for being retrograde in its depiction of a developing country’s culture and politics.

“We’ll make money on it,” said Erik Lomis, the Weinstein Company’s distribution chief. “We’re not big spenders on the [promotion and advertising] side and we spent late and did a good job getting to our target audience.”

Not even the presence of Efron could lift “We Are Your Friends” at the multiplexes. The look at the electronic music scene bombed, eking out a paltry $1.8 million from 2,333 screens, making it the worst wide-release launch of the “High School Musical” star’s career and one of the lowest wide-release debuts for a major studio film in history. Given that dreary pedigree, it’s no surprise that “We Are Your Friends” fell far short of projections, which had it debuting to roughly $8 million. Warner Bros. spent $2 million to acquire it out of the American Film Market, limiting the studio’s financial exposure.

“We’re disappointed,” said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros. distribution executive vice president. “We believe in Zac and this was a passion project of his.”

The top five was rounded out by “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation,” which captured third place with $8.3 million, and “Sinister 2,” which nabbed fifth position with a $4.7 million finish. The latest “Mission: Impossible” has earned $170.4 million since debuting in July, while the second “Sinister” film has racked up $18.5 million in two weeks of release.

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  1. Tom says:

    “We Are Your Friends” is a terrible name.

  2. Tim says:

    Cheers, to Compton for another week on top.

  3. Reblogged this on HBS Talent Management and commented:
    Congratulations to my friends Alex Kendrick, Stephen Kendrick and Rich Peluso at Sony Affirm. They are the creators of the modern faith-based film genre.

  4. Jessica says:

    I swear I have nothing against Zac Efron, but the kid can’t open a movie. Why do they keep trying so hard? They give him credit for Neighbors but that was the doing of Seth Rogens brand not Zac’s. What has he opened since High School Musical 3?

    • sammyglick says:

      Zac is now most likely only opening envelops and email, as it sure isn’t movies. What a non-talent. Maybe he should just quit acting and become a real EDM DJ.

  5. Michaelsd says:

    why does Zac Efron keep getting parts in movies?

  6. Kyle says:

    LOL, We Are Your Friends is a historical flop. It is not just bad, it is a total disaster. Top 5 worst all time wide release, Top 3 if you throw out the Saw 10 year re-release. Just wow…..

  7. Mike kendall says:

    Ricky and the Flash really bombed as well. . Why is it that no entertainment press ever acknowledges the many box office failures of Meryl Streep,Brad Pitt and the always failing George Clooney? At some point one of your media outlet peers decided these three were movie stars. You’ve been afraid to heap anything but praise on them since you did. For Streep thst goes all the way back to that over the top piece in the late 80’s calling her “our greatest actress”. Well if she is as you say, shame on us and what a disappointment. Her performance was embarrassing and the movie tanked, as did the last three from George and Brad. Here’s something you might want to add to your explanation of their sure-to-be future failures – while the critics love them the movie going audience does not.

    • Tim says:

      Ricky and the FLOP!

    • Richard says:

      Why all the Streep hate she is noted for her acting usually appearing in more low key prestigious films and rarely even tries for blockbuster material other than a few paycheck roles . Iron Lady for which she won the Oscar for only did 30m Flash is currently at 23m. Most all of her solo Streep projects unless based on a high profile source are conservatively budgeted and turn a small profit and that is why she keeps turning out films year after year.

  8. Bill says:

    “War Room” was propelled on the strength of its trailer and the fact that the Kendricks have consistently turned out high quality entertaining films for a faith-based audience. Each of their films has only gotten better.

    Meanwhile, the trailer for “We Are Your Friends” was poor as I couldn’t discern any type of plot from it other than it looked like some type of “party” film.

    Still, I see no reason why Variety should be shocked by the success for “War Room”; faith-based audiences have long been starving for product that does not belittle them or insult their faith, so when entertaining films meeting that criteria are released, they’re often rewarded.

  9. bijinius says:

    Speaking on “No Escape”, a film his company distributed: “We’ll make money on it.” – Erik Lomis. Truly, the deep, DEEP love for the movies Mr. Lomis possesses is gratifyingly, thrillingly infectious. It makes me think back to those films I saw as a child that touched my heart, my soul…

  10. bijinius says:

    “These are the kind of outlier events that happen and wake everyone up to the fact that faith-based audiences are passionate and looking for content” – Yeah, let me know when a “faith-based” movie is released WITH content. All i’ve seen thus far is frightfully one-sided sermons, with absolutely NO ROOM for any questions. It’s scary stuff.

    • Bill says:

      “God’s Not Dead” provided a good number of those questions. Yes, it had a viewpoint, but so do most films of any kind.

  11. Sal says:

    WTF, is The War Room. Never even heard of it.

  12. Alex says:

    Funny that I’ve not seen any commercials for “War Room” but I’ve seen many commercials for the others, yet “War Room” beat all the others.

    • Anonymous says:

      They probably didn’t advertise in the types of places that the typical Variety reader pays attention to, or need to. Advertising is becoming more narrowcast.

  13. fishnets says:

    Rogue Nation has overtaken Ant Man despite Ant Man’s 2 week advantage, 3D, kiddie appeal and opening weekend that was 2M higher than Rogue Nation’s. But Rogue nation had stellar buzz primarily surrounding Rebecca Ferguson’ star-making turn. Also stunts that Cruise did himself (unlike “green screen” action heroes who don’t do anything themselves) and people seriously underestimate the man. Couch jumping was almost 10 years ago, people moved on.

  14. Tell It says:

    If a slickster preacher can con christians into giving him $65 million for a private jet, it’s not too hard to get them to fork over $8 for a “faith” movie. Lots of investors must be looking into getting in on this nation.

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