As we first started talking about a release in commercial theaters, even I was shocked. But as we've watched the audiences respond in previews, I'm not fearful now. I'm pretty calm. —Blair Treu, movie's director
SALT LAKE CITY — "Meet the Mormons," a new documentary-style movie from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ranked No. 10 in box office sales nationwide in its first day of release.
The movie was the number one film in over 100 locations, according to the LDS Church, with sold-out showings reported in Salt Lake City, New York City, Detroit, Miami, Las Vegas, Dallas, Phoenix and other cities.
LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins said Saturday this was the first time the church has managed a theatrical release of this kind, and church leaders are pleased with the response to the movie.
The movie, which portrays the personal stories of six diverse Mormons and their families, opened in 317 theaters across the country Friday. All net proceeds from the movie are being given to the American Red Cross.
"Meet the Mormons" is being shown on twice as many screens as initially planned because of demand driven by word-of-mouth and social media. Now there's hope the movie will be shown internationally.
The movie had originally been expected to be shown exclusively at the LDS Church's Legacy Theater in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City, but church leaders and the filmmakers were encouraged to expand the audience.
"As we first started talking about a release in commercial theaters, even I was shocked," the movie's director, Blair Treu, told the Deseret News last week. "But as we've watched the audiences respond in previews, I'm not fearful now. I'm pretty calm."
The movie resembles the LDS Church's "I'm a Mormon" campaign that highlighted prominent Mormons in two- to three-minute videos. Treu has joked the movie is "'I'm a Mormon' on steroids."
But rather than highlighting celebrities like The Killers lead singer, Brandon Flowers, or former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, "Meet the Mormons" tells the stories of six Mormons from around the world.
They are Jermaine Sullivan, an African-American bishop in Atlanta; Ken Niumatalolo, head football coach at the Naval Academy; Carolina Muñoz Marin, a Costa Rican kickboxer; Bishnu Adhikari, an engineer who organizes humanitarian projects in the Himalayas; Dawn Armstrong, a missionary mother in Utah who struggled as a homeless single parent; and Gail Halvorsen, the legendary "candy bomber" during the Berlin airlift the followed World War II.
The name of the movie came from LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson, a title of a film he was involved with as a church leader in the early 1970s that was used in missionary work.
Treu said the movie acknowledges some of the stereotypes people have about Mormons.
"We understand this is what you might think about us. And guess what, that's okay," he told the Deseret News recently. "We'll even have a laugh along with you. But we invite you to look at us from a different point of view."
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