For 17 years now, the Kendrick Brothers have been making motion pictures. This weekend, they are releasing their sixth: Overcomer and like the films that came before it, it is expected to become a huge hit. But when the trio of brothers began making these film, no one could have predicted how successful they would become. With each new story, the film budgets have gotten bigger, the stories have been written better and their impact has gotten greater. They really have come a long way.
Shannon, Alex and Stephen Kendrick grew up in Athens, Georgia shooting Super 8 mm movies while still in junior high. According to them, they pushed “the boundaries of safe judgment” trying to get the perfect shot of dodging cars and perhaps getting to close to a lit firework after their parents purchased their first video camera.
Growing up, the oldest brother, Shannon graduated from Georgia Tech and then joined IBM while the other two received communications degrees from Kennesaw State University, attended seminary, and were ordained as ministers. Eventually, Alex and Stephen became pastors at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia. In 2002, with a passion to make movies still strong, Alex approached the senior pastor with his dream of making a full-length movie to serve as an outreach to their community. Pastor Michael Catt agreed to the idea as long as the money was donated seperated or “prayed in” as he called it.
The church’s congregation came through with donations totaling near $20,000 to make the movie that would become Flywheel, telling the story of a dishonest, used-car salesman who comes to grips with his need for repentance and places his faith in God. Stephen joined in the effort, along with dozens of church volunteers, and production began in November 2002.
The film debuted at one movie theater on April 9, 2003 but little did the movie-goers realize that the film had only been completed just hours beforehand! Expecting to only run the film for one weekend, Flywheel did so well that the theater extended its showing for six weeks. Not bad for a little church-made movie.
Flywheel was later released on DVD with 1,000 copies of the movie being sold on first day creating the happy problem of keeping up the demand. Later, the film aired on five different TV networks and received seven film festivals awards. So, what do you do for an encore? Make another movie of course.
In May of 2004, production began for Facing the Giants, a high school football story about facing fear with faith with an enlarged budget of $100,000. With Stephen producing and Alex directing, the cast included five paid professionals leading the production teams of congregation volunteers.
Eagerly screening Giants for several distributors in 2005, Alex was disappointed that there were no takers for the film. However, after much prayer and a meeting with Provident Label Group to ask for permission license a song for the film, Stephen was able to show the president of the company the film. Not only was Stephen granted the right to use the song, but Provident asked for distribution rights for Giants. He then sent the movie to Sony and movie was screened in 441 movie theaters nationwide on September 29, 2206. The MPAA gave the movie a PG rating for “explicit Christian content” which only generated more publicity. In the end, the movie exceeded expectations earning over $10 million in theaters and selling 2.5 million DVD copies of the film.
In 2007, cameras began rolling once again for an even bigger budget film, Fireproof. Working in an estimated budget of $500,000, the marriage-themed movie was able to hire a dozen of professionals to work alongside the 1,200 volunteers. On September 26, 2008, Provident Films released Fireproof, starring Kirk Cameron, to 905 theaters. Fireproof generated $33.4 million at the box office, and became the #1 independent film of 2008. The Fireproof DVD sold over 3.5 million units in 75 countries.
In May 2010, work began on the father-themed story of Courageous. This time the brothers were able to hire 28 professionals to work alongside 1,700 volunteers on the $1 billion budgeted movie. This time around, TriStar Pictures released the movie to 1,214 theaters that following September. It generated $34.5 million at the box office. Then, TriStar expanded the theatrical release to 20 other countries. In January of 2012, Courageous became the #1 selling DVD in the U.S.
In 2013, brother Shannon joined Alex and Stephen as their Director of Business and that same year, the Kendricks began working on War Room. They were now able to hire a large crew of professionals, 20 college interns and volunteers from 85 churches working within a budget of $3 million. War Room was released on August 28, 2015 by Sony/TriStar Pictures in 1,945 theaters. With an A+ CinemaScore rating, War Room expanded to more theaters and over 20 countries, generating over $70 million at the box office.
So, if you do the math, the Kendricks film company, which started with the “little” Flywheel movie, has generated over $150 million in worldwide box office sales and their films have been translated into 40 languages.
Today, Overcomer is being released by Affirm Films, a Sony Pictures Entertainment company and Provident Films. The new inspirational sports drama stars Alex along with Shari Rigby, Priscilla Shirer, Cameron Arnett and newcomer Aryn Wright-Thompson. The Kendricks describe the film as follows:
“Life changes overnight for coach John Harrison when his high school basketball team and state championship dreams are crushed under the weight of unexpected news. When the largest manufacturing plant shuts down and hundreds of families leave their town, John questions how he and his family will face an uncertain future. After reluctantly agreeing to coach cross-country, John and his wife, Amy, meet an aspiring athlete who’s pushing her limits on a journey toward discovery. Inspired by the words and prayers of a new-found friend, John becomes the least likely coach helping the least likely runner attempt the impossible in the biggest race of the year.”
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.