June 16, 2024

The Exorcist: Believer” looks to easily claim the No. 1 spot in its box office debut, but that almost wasn’t the case.

Universal and Blumhouse’s supernatural sequel, which is estimated to open to $30 million to $36 million from 3,600 North American theaters, was originally slated for next weekend to coincide with Friday the 13th (during the spookiest month of the year, no less). But the film moved up a week to avoid the unexpected release of Taylor Swift’s “Eras Tour” concert film, which is projected to bring in at least $100 million to start… and would have clobbered “The Exorcist” in terms of ticket sales.

Now, “The Exorcist: Believer,” the sixth installment in the legacy franchise, has the benefit of having the weekend to itself, at least in terms of nationwide offerings. Several high-profile movies, such as Martin Scorsese’s crime epic “Killers of the Flower Moon” and “Cat Person,” an adaptation of the viral short story, will kick off in limited release.

“The Exorcist: Believer” cost $30 million and is well-positioned at the box office despite the SAG strike that’s preventing actors from promoting their films. David Gordon Green, who revived the “Halloween” franchise with Jamie Lee Curtis, is hoping to do the same with “Exorcist.” This entry is the first of a planned trilogy, with a sequel already set for April 18, 2025.

Set 50 years after the original 1973 film, which became a box office smash and was the first horror film to receive an Oscar best picture nomination, “The Exorcist: Believer” sees the return of Ellen Burstyn as Chris MacNeil, an actor who has been forever altered by a paranormal event that plagued her daughter Regan decades ago. The story picks up as two local girls escape into the woods, only to return three days later with no memory of the episode. This unleashes a horrific chain of events, forcing the father of one of the girls to seek out MacNeil, the only living person who has experienced anything like it before.

Reviews rarely make a difference with ticket sales for the horror genre, but critics have been mixed on Gordon Green’s reboot. Variety’s chief film critic Owen Gleiberman says the film packs on the nostalgia but omits the shock value that propelled the first film to legacy status. This sequel, he wrote, “feels about as dangerous as a crucifix dipped in a bottle of designer water.”

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