The Big Picture

  • Universal’s new film, The Exorcist: Believer, is underperforming compared to expectations, despite the reputation of the original classic.
  • The film grossed $45 million globally in its debut, recovering its production budget, but it is playing more like a low-key horror movie than a follow-up to a critically acclaimed film.
  • The Exorcist: Believer received poor reviews and currently has a 23% score on Rotten Tomatoes, indicating a challenging future for the film.

Universal’s big bet on the Exorcist brand isn’t quite paying off just yet, but it’s still early days. Positioned as a direct sequel to the 1973 classic The Exorcist, this week’s The Exorcist: Believer is coming in under expectations both domestically and worldwide, despite the near-unblemished reputation that the original film has been able to hold onto for five decades.

Directed by David Gordon Green, The Exorcist: Believer grossed $27 million in its domestic debut, and another $18 million from more than 50 overseas markets, for a global debut of $45 million. While this was good enough for it to be the top movie in the world (and to recover its reported $30 million production budget), the film is playing more along the lines of a relatively low-key horror title than as a follow-up to a critically acclaimed and commercially successful classic.

Directed by the late, great William Friedkin, The Exorcist delivered a then-record global box office haul of $441 million, which is only $40-odd million more than what Universal reportedly shelled out for the rights to the franchise. The studio intends on making a trilogy of new Exorcist movies, although it is free to monetize the franchise beyond theatrical films. The blueprint that it’s following was probably inspired by Green and Blumhouse’s trio of Halloween reboots, released between 2018 and 2022. The first Halloween actually opened to $76 million domestically, which is probably what The Exorcist: Believer would realistically be looking at in its entire box office run. Even Halloween Kills, which was released day-and-date on the Peacock streaming service in mid-pandemic 2021, managed to gross nearly $50 million in its domestic opening weekend.

The Movie Was Cursed With Poor Reviews

The Exorcist_ Believer - 2023
Image via Universal Pictures

The Exorcist: Believer was greeted with terrible reviews, and is currently sitting at a “rotten” 23% score on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. The movie earned a C CinemaScore from opening day audiences, and a C- from Collider’s Chase Hutchinson. None of this bodes well for the film’s future. Globally, the film’s top market was Mexico, where it debuted with $4 million. The Exorcist: Believer also delivered number one openings in UK & Ireland ($2.1 million), Italy ($1.2 million), Spain ($1 million) and Germany ($0.9 million).

Starring Leslie Odom Jr. as the father of a young girl who disappears in the woods with her friend, the film also brings back franchise star Ellen Burstyn, alongside Anne Dowd, Jennifer Nettles, Norbert Leo Butz, and Lidya Jewett and Olivia Marcum as the two young girls. Coincidentally, the film debuted on the same day as Friedkin’s final film, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial. Stay tuned to Collider for more updates.

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