The Exorcist: Believer drove out all foes at the box office, but its numbers didn’t entirely make heads spin.
Facing competition from no major new releases, the latest resurrection of the demonic franchise brought in US$27.2 million (S$37.1 million) in North America in its opening weekend for Universal Pictures and Blumhouse Productions, according to studio estimates on Sunday (Oct 8).
That was more than the weekend take of the next three films combined. But while it nearly earned back its reported budget of US$30 million in just a few days, the take for The Exorcist: Believer was underwhelming after the two companies paid US$400 million in 2021 for the rights to a new trilogy.
Last week’s top film, Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie, was a distant second, with US$11.8 million, and has earned US$38.9 million after two weekends for Paramount Pictures. Another horror sequel, Saw X, was third for Lionsgate Films, with US$8.2 million, and has brought in US$32.6 million after two weekends.
Horror films made up four of the top 10, and they could see some sustained numbers as Halloween comes closer.
“It seems like the demand for the horror genre by audiences is never ending,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore. “The communal theatre experience is tailor-made for it.”
The new Exorcist was released just shy of the 50th anniversary of the original horror classic, and it comes just two months after the death of the original film’s director, William Friedkin.
Directed by David Gordon Green, who has become a legacy sequel specialist after helming a trilogy of Halloween films, The Exorcist: Believer stars Hamilton actor Leslie Odom Jr., with Lidya Jewett as his 13-year-old daughter.
The film got poor reviews – managing a critics score of just 23 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes. Jake Coyle of The Associated Press was more charitable than most in his review, giving it two stars out of four for its lead performances and sure-handed direction but saying it “never manages anything like the deep terror of the original”.
“I think they made a good call actually,” Dergarabedian said. “All the oxygen is going to be sucked out of the room.”
The storm of Swifties in cinemas could make for a US$100 million weekend and set several new precedents for concert movies.
“This is on an order of magnitude beyond anything we’ve seen,” Dergarabedian said.
The weekend finally saw Barbie fall from the box office top 10 for the first time since its Jul 21 release, after well over US$600 million in domestic earnings and more than US$1.3 billion globally.