The Hunger Games wasn’t this weekend’s only box office success story. As Katniss Everdeen fought for her freedom on screens across the country, a humble pro-life film called October Baby quietly opened in just 390 theaters. That modest release, which co-stars Jasmine Guy and John Schneider, ended up earning a cool $1,718,000 — enough to put it among the weekend’s top eight earners.
“Yeah, I was surprised,” October Baby co-director Jon Erwin laughs, speaking to EW via cell phone. He helmed the movie with his brother Andrew. “We didn’t make the film because we wanted some sort of big box office return — we were just passionate about the subject matter.”
That subject matter is fairly controversial. The film is sort of like a pro-life take on Crossroads — like that 2002 Britney Spears vehicle, October Baby follows a young girl (Rachel Hendrix) who embarks on a road trip to find her birth mother. The twist: The protagonist learns that she was adopted after said birth mother tried to abort her.
Getting the film distributed was no easy feat; Erwin refers to the saga as a “two-year journey” that felt as intense as a political campaign. After months of tiny screenings with “community leaders,” grassroots outreach, and relentless online campaigning, he and his brother finally got the attention of Samuel Goldwyn Films. But will such a niche story resonate with audiences beyond October Baby‘s built-in Christian base, the audiences that helped make films like Fireproof and Courageous hits? Erwin thinks it’s a definite possibility. “The biggest thing we wanted to confront was indifference and apathy,” he says. “Conversations about this issue are healthy, no matter your religion or political affiliation.” What’s more, he thinks the film’s themes of hope and forgiveness make it more than just an anti-choice screed: “My intention is not for the film to be anti-abortion propaganda. I wanted to make a film about the value of each individual life.”
On April 13, October Baby will get a wider release in even more theaters. Until then, Erwin will keep campaigning — and thanking his lucky stars for The Hunger Games. If not for that film’s utter box office dominance, October Baby may never have been able to slip into last week’s Top Ten list: “It destroyed every film in front of us,” Erwin explains. Looks like Katniss isn’t the only one who knows how to level a playing field.