Universal found themselves in purgatory over the weekend of October 6 and 8 with the release of The exorcist: believerwhich is intended as a trilogy starter reboot of the iconic horror title.
While Believer The title performed solidly at the box office and recouped its production costs. The title invited critical hellfire from reviewers and fans, sending the franchise’s creative plan into a tailspin.
The one produced by Blumhouse Believer is the first result of the studio’s purchase of the rights to the iconic horror franchise in 2021. The theatrical rights (for which Universal beat rival bids) to three films carried a sky-high price tag of $400 million, but so did the films’ streaming rights for Peacock and theme park expansions like this month’s. Exorcist: believer maze during Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights. (Beware, it’s a demonic film critic!)
The deal made sense for the studio, sources say, given that Blumhouse and… Halloween director David Gordon Green on another iconic franchise. Still, producer Jason Blum called Believer “the riskiest film I’ve ever made” because of the price. In the new film, Ellen Burstyn returns as a co-star in a Exorcist film for the first time since William Friedkin’s 1973 original.
Believer was on track to take $30 million to $35 million, but that number dropped to $26.5 million when the final numbers were tallied. Overseas, Believer opened to $17.6 million from the first 52 markets for a soft global start of $44.2 million.
“Even if it had opened at $35 million — as tracking suggested last week — that would have been a disappointment,” said David Herrin, founder of tracking and research firm The Quorum. “Bringing back beloved IP doesn’t mean you can match the heights of these statistical anomalies (like Blumhouse’s 2018). Halloween reboot, which opened to a staggering $76.2 million). You’re setting yourself up for failure.”
Additional setbacks included a last-minute date change to appear for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour concert film, the SAG-AFTRA strike limiting talent marketing, and a busy horror marketplace with The Nun II And Saw X amid Believer‘s rivals. The coming weeks are unclear Believeras horror films can often remain in play as Halloween approaches, but given the critical response from viewers – and Swifties invading cinemas this week with a projected opening of over $100 million – Believer can be removed from the screens more quickly than normal.
For now, we’re told Universal is still firmly in possession of its new IP – two more Exorcist films will still be made. But sources say BelieverThe film’s reception will almost certainly require some degree of creative rethinking for the next two films. The first sequel would be called Cheater, which was announced for 2025 and has a completed script. Director Green was also expected to return, but he recently expressed some doubts about his participation (“My intention is just to make things, and when those plans come together, if I find myself in that (The exorcist: deceiver) director’s chair, I would be very happy,” Green said THR. “But right now I’m navigating it from a story perspective and looking at my reality of life as I spin.”)
However, there may be daylight on the horizon for Universal and Blumhouse in the short term. Their next horror title, the video game inspired Chuck E. Cheese nightmare fuel Five nights at Freddy’s (trailer below) will open strongly on October 27, despite being a day-and-date release with Peacock.
Pamela McClintock contributed to this report.