Jim Steward, executive director of the nonprofit Stanislaus County Healthy Marriage Coalition, previewed "Fireproof" in Modesto in July, along with about 220 other people.
"They were mostly pastors and ministry leaders," he said. "All rated it really highly. There was a lot of enthusiasm for it."
And a need for more messages that give hope for failing marriages.
"I get two or three calls every week looking for resources," Steward said of his community agency, which works with several faith-based partners. "The polls that the California Healthy Marriages Coalition have done show that the vast majority of people in California still hold marriage to be the ideal institution. If you take a poll of young people, their goal is to have a lifelong, solid marriage, but because of the lack of mentors and the ease of divorce, they can't see how to do that. I think this movie can give people hope that they can save their marriages."
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Michelle Williams, co-director with her husband, Joe, of a ministry to marriages in crisis, agreed. She also saw the July preview.
"I've never seen a marriage in crisis shown so well," she said. "It was very well done. The way it plays out on-screen, it looks like there's absolutely no hope. Then (Caleb's) father gives him something to read that changes his life.
"It shows what happens when only one person wants to work on a marriage when the other person has a foot out the door. That's what our ministry is all about. Half of the people who come to our classes come without their spouse. There's power in having one person working on things."
Buddy Gray, outreach pastor for Davis Church of Christ in Modesto, purchased one entire showing (4:40 p.m. Sept. 27) of the movie at Brenden Theatres.
"This isn't the first time we've bought out a theater," Gray said. "We think that movies are very good way to reach out to the local community with a message. Our members pay for their tickets, but anyone they invite gets a free ticket."
The movie strikes close to home for Gray, who also serves as a volunteer chaplain with the Modesto Police Department and the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department.
"I have been on fire scenes where we had to tell people that their loved ones had not survived the fire," he said.
He has two goals for moviegoers:
"What we hope they come away with is if they're in a marriage that's troubled, first of all, that it's worth saving, and No. 2, that they can find reconciliation in their marriages through a relationship with God."
Williams hopes that folks who identify with the movie's troubled marriage will do two things:
"We're recommending that people will first see the movie and then come to the class on Sept. 30," she said. "The 11-week class provides tools to strengthen their marriage and bring hope to any situation, even if they're married to an unwilling spouse. If they are married with a few bumps in the road, or married in sever crisis with no hope like the movie was, they'll find help."
The class "Hope for Your Marriage" begins Sept. 30 at Shelter Cove Community Church, 4242 Coffee Road, Modesto. Child care is provided. Class is free, with an optional cost for the workbook, "Marriage 911." Call 578-4357.