Under ordinary circumstances, these opening weekend numbers would be a clear win against the $30 million product budget for “The Exorcist: Believer.” The problem is with that massive upfront price tag for the rights to the trilogy which, split over three movies, makes the budget for “Believer” look more like $163 million.
Spending $400 million on the rights to an “Exorcist” movie trilogy isn’t quite as ridiculous as it sounds. While William Friedkin’s 1973 film is mostly remembered for being one of the scariest films of all time, and also for celebrating the death of the Hays Code by pushing the boundaries of what you could put on screen, it’s also one of the highest-grossing horror movies of all time. While pinning down exact numbers can be a challenge for older movies, especially ones with numerous rereleases like “The Exorcist,” Box Office Mojo indicates that it grossed $193 million in its original run at the domestic box office — equivalent to around $1.3 billion in 2023 dollars.
Besides, horror is big business. Over its first nine entries, the “Saw” franchise earned north of a billion dollars in box office ticket sales alone. Warner Bros. Pictures’ Conjuring Universe is more successful than the DC Extended Universe. Universal’s brand is rooted in horror classics like “Dracula,” “Frankenstein,” and “The Invisible Man,” and the studio has been feverishly trying to capitalize on that history with generously-budgeted spin-offs like “Renfield” and “The Last Voyage of the Demeter” (both box office bombs).
“The Exorcist: Deceiver” is already scheduled for April 2025 and was supposed to be directed by Green. However, the filmmaker backed off from that certainty in a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, saying, “My intention is just to start making things, and as those plans come together, if I find myself in that [The Exorcist: Deceiver] director’s chair, I’d be thrilled. But right now, I’m navigating it from a story perspective and looking at my realities of life as I pivot.”