Machine Gun Preacher

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  • Directed By: Marc Forster
  • Written By: Jason Keller
  • Release Date: September 23, 2011
  • Domestic Distributor: Relativity
  • Cast: Gerard Butler, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Shannon

Box Office Info:
Budget: $30 million Financed by: 1984 Private Defense Contractors
Domestic Gross: $538,690 Overseas Gross: $3,183,298

The budget for Machine Gun Preacher was $30 million and it was “Based On The Inspiring True Story” of the violent religious nut job Sam Childers, who goes by ‘Machine Gun Preacher’ — this completely misguided white savior story was financed by 1984 Private Defense Contractors.  Lionsgate handled pre-sales which accounted for the majority of the budget.   Machine Gun Preacher sold very well to distributors, packaged as a film with global appeal, with a bankable star and a renowned director.  What the distributors overpaid for was a critically maligned film with very limited appeal.

Lionsgate was set to distribute Machine Gun Preacher in the US, but had a crowded slate and the mini-major wanted to push it back to 2012.  Director Marc Forster wanted the movie out in late 2011 as an awards contender and Lionsgate agreed to let the movie go.  Relativity took over domestic distribution, which had just gotten into the market as a US distributor and scheduled Machine Gun Preacher to be their first platform release.  Promotional material included bouncing around Sam Childers to media outlets to sell his story as a former scumbag drug dealer who found Jesus and went to Sudan to set up an orphanage and took up arms to liberate children from the LRA.  However, the more journalists looked into his story, most of which is presented in the movie, the man seemed both insane and full of tall tales.  He claimed to be a commander in the SPLA (that’s not something to be proud of), which turned out to be fabricated and his brand of humanitarian aid, has been denounced as Rambo on a mission from Jesus.  Stories came out about his orphanage, where children were neglected, ill and malnourished and the locals wanted him to leave.  Yet he’s a man on a divine mission in this godawful movie.

Relativity opened Machine Gun Preacher in 4 theaters to $45,130 with a not very promising $11,283 per screen average.  The movie was in a commercial dead zone — too poorly reviewed for art house auds and too under the radar for the multiplex crowd.  Relativity expanded the film to 33 locations the following weekend, with no interest from audiences and it pulled in a poor $84,732 with a per screen average of $2,568, which killed off the nationwide expansion.  Machine Gun Preacher‘s widest release in the states was in 93 theaters and it grossed only $538,690 total.

Overseas Machine Gun Preacher pulled in a terrible $3.1 million across dozens of distributors and $1 million of that number came from the UK, where Lionsgate distributed.  It went straight to video in major territories like France and Italy and premiered on TV in Spain.  Gerard Butler would follow up his only 2011 release with two 2012 flops Chasing Mavericks and Playing For Keeps.

Sam Childers has said he still has not seen any revenue from the movie.  Good.


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