“Sound of Freedom,” a religious thriller led by “The Passion of the Christ” star Jim Caviezel, is becoming an unlikely box office savior. The faith-based movie about child sex trafficking has collected an impressive $40 million after six days of release.
“Sound of Freedom” opened last Tuesday, generating a mighty $14.2 million on the Independence Day holiday. The film picked up another $18.2 million between Friday and Sunday, enough to place third on domestic box office charts behind “Insidious: The Red Door” ($32.6 million) and “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” ($26.5 million). It’s playing in 2,850 North American theaters, a smaller footprint than “Insidious” and “Indiana Jones (3,188 theaters and 4,600 theaters, respectively).
“As with our July 4th numbers, today’s numbers exceed our expectations, and we’re going to continue this momentum,” said Brandon Purdie, head of theatrical distribution at Angel Studios, the independent studio that’s backing the film, in a statement. “We’re getting messages from all over the country telling us about packed theaters, sold-out theaters and spontaneous standing ovations for the film in numerous locations. Seeing this film has become a must, thanks to incredible word-of-mouth.”
Purdie also thanked AMC, Cinemark and Regal, which are three of the biggest movie theater chains in the country, for “having the courage to release ‘Sound of Freedom’ during the busiest movie season of the year.”
It’s one of the biggest openings in recent times for a faith-based film, according to Comscore, which counts this spring’s Kelsey Grammar-led “Jesus Revolution” ($15.8 million debut), 2019’s “Breakthrough” with Chrissy Metz ($11.2 million debut) and 2018’s Erwin brothers musical drama “I Can Only Imagine” ($17.1 million debut) as other top turnouts for movies that cater to religious audiences.
Hollywood rarely backs films that are geared toward this particular demographic. But when they do, it’s a sector that has proven to reliably turn out in force. A similar crowed helped to propel the low-budget “Jesus Revolution” to $53 million, enough to rank among the top 25 domestic releases of this year. “Sound of Freedom” looks to eclipse those box office returns in a matter of days, as long as momentum sustains during the week.
“Sound of Freedom” was originally set at 20th Century Fox and was completed in 2018 before Disney acquired the studio the following year and shelved the film. It’s now being distributed independently by Angel Studios, which recently released this spring’s Old Testament-inspired “His Only Son” and spent $15 million on the Caviezel-led action-thriller.
Religious and conservative media groups have rallied behind the film, which is partially crowdfunded. The Utah-based Angel Studios used other unconventional efforts to promote the film, including an app that allows people to buy and then donate tickets to those who can’t afford the price of admission. About $2.6 million of opening day sales were earned through the “Pay It Forward” app, which the company framed as a way to raise awareness about child trafficking.
Alejandro Monteverde wrote and directed “Sound of Freedom,” based on the true story of Tim Ballard (Caviezel), a former government agent who embarks on a mission to rescue children from sex traffickers in Colombia. Mira Sorvino and Bill Camp co-star.
Opening weekend audiences were enthusiastic, bestowing the film an “A+” CinemaScore. It’s the only movie playing in theaters right now with that high of a grade. Ticket buyers have been predominately female, while more than 50% of cinemagoers were over the age of 45 years old.
“There’s support for the movie from white conservative political groups, but a third of the audience is Hispanic,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “The inspiration, action and Latin America-based story are drawing a diverse audience, not just ethnically,” he adds, “but in age and gender.”
Critics have been mostly positive toward the movie, which holds a 76% on Rotten Tomatoes. Variety chief film critic Owen Gleiberman praised “Sound of Freedom” as “a compelling movie that shines an authentic light on one of the crucial criminal horrors of our time, one that Hollywood has mostly shied away from.”
“Sound of Freedom” has also stirred up some controversy, with detractors accusing the film of embellishing the reality of child exploitation and stoking QAnon conspiracy theories. Rolling Stone called “Sound of Freedom” a “QAnon-tinged thriller,” one that is designed to “appeal to the conscience of a conspiracy-addled boomer.”
Box office analysts say it’s noteworthy that “Sound of Freedom” managed to crack the top five on domestic charts in the heat of summer, a time of year that’s traditionally reserved for big-budget action tentpoles, superhero sequels or escapist romps.
“The strong response to faith-based films reflects a demand by an underserved audience who are hungry for entertainment that reflects their values and beliefs,” says Paul Dergarabedian, a senior Comscore analyst. “Such content can indeed find an enthusiastic audience, generate solid box office and impressive profits for their investors.”