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Effort brings film to Fargo

For the past year, Penny Crowder would visit the Web site for the movie "Fireproof," watching video clips and reading its blog. Then she found out the film - a story of a firefighter trying to save his crumbling marriage - wasn't opening here. So...

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For the past year, Penny Crowder would visit the Web site for the movie "Fireproof," watching video clips and reading its blog.

Then she found out the film - a story of a firefighter trying to save his crumbling marriage - wasn't opening here.

So the West Fargo woman bought 1,000 movie tickets to make sure it would.

"I'm getting e-mails and phone calls from people telling me how they've been affected by the film," Crowder says. "It's just been the coolest thing."

"Fireproof," starring Kirk Cameron, was slated to open in fewer than 800 theaters on Sept. 26. Knowing more people would want to see the movie, its production company, Provident Films, created "action squads," says Elizabeth Fields, a member of the marketing team for Provident Films.

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If these groups - often spearheaded by pastors or other ministry workers - could pre-buy 1,000 tickets, the movie would come to their town.

"That just shows, yes, we do have a market here," Fields says.

"Fireproof" opened in 839 theaters. Ninety-eight of those were initiated by action squads, including West Acres 14 in Fargo.

Crowder put down $6,500 for 1,000 tickets. She e-mailed friends and cold-called churches to sell the tickets.

"It just exploded from there," she says.

She donated the profits - about $2,000 - to the World Vision Experience, an educational exhibit on AIDS in Africa coming to Crowder's church, Atonement Lutheran in Fargo, on Oct. 18-20.

"She just stepped out and said this is too important to pass by," Fields says about Crowder. "I think she has the Midas touch."

"Fireproof" ranked third locally in box-office receipts last weekend behind "Eagle Eye" and "Nights in Rodanthe," according Movie Marketplace. It took fourth place in the national box office, earning $6.8 million.

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Rick Solarski, general manager of West Acres 14, says the movie has been well-received. Crowder's bulk purchase guaranteed 1,000 moviegoers, but more than twice that have seen the movie, he says.

"The reception's been phenomenal," Solarski says. "It touches a chord with a lot of people."

Sold-out theaters have applauded at the end of the film. A few individuals have been overcome by emotion, he says.

Crowder took Sept. 26 off work to attend the first screening. She went again Sunday afternoon with her foster daughter, and at that daughter's request, again Sunday evening.

The movie shows "what real love is, what it means to love somebody," she says. "These days when you run into a problem in your marriage or your friendship, you want out." The movie teaches people to fight for it, she says.

"It's made me a better foster parent," she says.

If you go

- What: "Fireproof"

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- Where: West Acres 14

- Rated: PG

- Duration: 122 minutes

- Online: www.fireproofthemovie.com; www.marcustheaters.com

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 235-7311

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