May 19, 2024

The Exorcist: Believer,” a reboot in the legacy horror franchise, opened atop box office charts despite falling short of expectations.

The film, from Universal and Blumhouse, collected $27.2 million from 3,663 North American venues over the weekend, below estimates that suggested a debut closer to $35 million. “Believer” also opened at the international box office with $17.8 million for a global start of $45.1 million. The “Exorcist” sequel cost $30 million, so it’s well-positioned in its theatrical run.

But reviews (23% on Rotten Tomatoes) and audience scores (“C” CinemaScore) were terrible, so the studio may need to reconsider its strategy before the next installment opens in 2025. Universal spent a staggering $400 million to buy the rights to the terrifying property, with plans to at least develop a trilogy around these supernatural battles with the devil. They need moviegoers to feel invested in the series beyond this installment to justify that massive deal.

“This is a good opening for a horror sequel that’s coming 19 years after the last ‘Exorcist’ and 50 years after the original in 1973,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. But, he points out that “Critics reviews are poor, and audience scores are lukewarm. Creatively, the story has little momentum right now.”

“Believer” was originally set to open next Friday the 13th, but the studio moved up its release date to avoid Taylor Swift’s much-hyped “Eras Tour” concert film. It was this weekend’s only new nationwide release, so “The Exorcist” didn’t have any trouble in taking the No. 1 spot as several holdovers rounded out the top five.

Paramount’s “PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie” slid to second place in its sophomore outing, collecting $11.7 million from 4,027 theaters. So far, the animated kids movie has grossed $38.8 million in North America.

Another horror-thriller, “Saw X,” took the No. 3 spot with $8.15 million, a decent 55% decline from its debut. After 10 days of release, the 10th “Saw” movie has earned $32.5 million. It cost just $13 million, so it’ll be very profitable for its backers by the end of its theatrical run.

“The Creator,” directed by Gareth Edwards and starring John David Washington as the leader of a war between humans and AI, dropped to fourth place with $6.1 million in its second weekend in theaters. So far, the sci-fi thriller has grossed $24.9 million domestically and $61.8 million worldwide, which isn’t all that spectacular because Disney and New Regency spent $80 million to produce the film before marketing.

“The Blind, a faith-based film about “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson, rounded out the top five with $3.5 million from 1,312 theaters. Fathom Events released the movie, which has earned $10.9 million to date.

A24’s unhinged comedy “Dicks: The Musical” was a bright spot at the specialty box office, generating one of the best limited openings of the year. The “Parent Trap”-inspired movie, from “Borat” director Larry Charles and comedians Josh Sharp and Aaron Jackson, pulled in $220,867 from seven screens across New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco — translating to a solid $31,552 per location. Megan Thee Stallion, Nathan Lane, Megan Mullally and Bowen Yang co-star in the campy “Dicks,” which will test its broader appeal as the film expands next weekend before opening nationwide on Oct. 20.

More to come…

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