Courageous, an independent movie debuting in only 1,126 theaters today, is leading ticket sales. It has already placed No. 1 on Fandango's Fandango 5 list of the week's hottest tickets, besting No. 2 the Lion King with over $2.5 million in pre-sales.

The faith-based drama, distributed by Sony/Tri-Star, is made by Sherwood Baptist Church, the same Albany, Ga. church-studio powerhouse whose 2008 hit Fireproof was the top independent film of that year.

Centering on four Born Again sheriff's deputies in Albany, the film aims to tackle one of America's most acute social problems: the missing father figure. Courageous is a direct challenge to fathers, or men of courage, to measure up to the biblical definition of fatherhood.

The deputies-Adam (Alex Kendrick), Nathan (Ken Bevel), Shane (Kevin Downes) and David (Ben Davies)-are close friends struggling to balance work and fatherhood while being tested by gang and drug problems, issues that are themselves often linked to fatherless homes. Adam and Nathan point to God and the Bible as their guideposts, and serve as the film's heroes.

Early grass roots marketing, and ticket sales boosted by churches buying out entire showings, have likely skewed the numbers, meaning that Courageous is unlikely to stay in the top spot.

Still, the independent film is making an impressive run for such limited distribution. Its success will be helped by writer Stephen Kendrick and writer-director-actor Alex Kendrick, who balance the often preachy elements of the film with non-sectarian wit and some surprisingly well-executed action and suspense sequences.