Blumhouse, in association with Universal and Peacock, reportedly bought the rights to The Exorcist franchise for $400 million. That is a lot of dough, especially with an option to put the second and third films of a proposed trilogy straight to the streaming service as exclusives. The pandemic cut into the plans for David Gordon Green’s Halloween trilogy, with its second (Kills) and third (Ends) chapters going day-and-date streaming and failing to earn what his 2018 film grossed in theaters alone. Streaming is not the problem with The Exorcist: Believer; it’s the reviews, and a weekend that is likely not going to be worth the investment.
David Gordon Green’s Halloween opened to $76 million in 2018. Five years later, The Exorcist: Believer began with $27.2 million. That’s a better opening than the last Exorcist film put out by Warner Bros. in 2004 (Renny Harlin’s The Beginning) after they dumped Paul Schrader’s version and ordered a reboot. But even that film’s haul — $18 million — is still roughly $29.2 million in 2023 dollars. Believer’s numbers this weekend are below the $30+ million many had pegged for it, even before it moved up a week to avoid the Taylor Swift storm next week. Now its budget is reportedly in the $30 million range. So ignore that $400 million franchise pricetag for the moment — as that can be made back over time — and consider that the new film’s opening is not terrible in that regard. The question now is how the poor reviews will spill over into word-of-mouth going forward.
Whatever dreams Believer may have had of becoming a $100 million grosser this month have been all but dashed. Only seven films have ever opened in October to less than $30 million and hit that milestone, and we are talking about films with genuinely positive word-of-mouth like Meet the Parents, The Departed, Captain Phillips, Argo, The Ring, Look Who’s Talking, and Pulp Fiction. Not only have we not seen this happen since 2013, but four of those films rank over 90% with critics, and the lowest score was the talking baby at 55%. The Exorcist: Believer currently sits at 22% on the Tomatometer. Horror films that have opened over $20 million with Tomatometer scores below 30% in the month of October include Annabelle, Saw IV, Saw V, Saw 3-D, Paranormal Activity 4, Dracula Untold, and The Grudge 2, and they have a collective average multiple of just 2.04. The “C” Cinemascore does not bode well either — that could keep Believer’s total under $60 million domestic — but it won’t need much internationally to cover its budget.
We wish there was another way to frame this but there isn’t. Gareth Edwards’ The Creator is going to be another loser for 20th Century Studios. The original sci-fi epic fell 56% down to $6.1 million this weekend, bringing its total to a paltry $24.9 million. Those numbers put it just ahead of George Clooney-makes-a-gun film, The American ($5.6 million second weekend / $24.21 million 10-day gross), and the Jennifer Garner-has-a-gun film, Peppermint ($6 million / $24.18 million). The latter finished with just over $35 million. The Creator is on pace for a similar total, and with only $18.3 million internationally, the $80 million production is looking like another $60+ million bomb for the company, roughly the seventh since Disney acquired Fox.
At least it isn’t Expend4bles, which fell out of the top 10 after just two weekends. The film grossed under a million dollars in its third frame and has made only $15.3 million to date with only another $11.1 million internationally, and it’s currently looking like a $100+ million loser for Millennium Media and Lionsgate.
Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie held on for second place this week with $11.7 million. That brings its total to $38.8 million in its first 10 days. That is over $7 million more than The Addams Family 2 had back in 2021 after making $10.1 million in its second weekend. That puts The Mighty Movie on a path somewhere north of $65 million. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day made $11.4 million in its second weekend, bringing its total to $36.2 million — it ultimately finished with over $66 million. With the same $30 million budget as The Exorcist: Believer, Paw Patrol could end up still outgrossing the film that knocked it back this weekend.
Last week’s runner-up fell back to third place. Saw X will soon be usurped by Believer’s grosses, but this week, it dropped 55% to $8.1 million — not bad considering the history of this franchise has seen much larger falls. Chapters 4-8 all fell more than 60% in their second weekend, and X now has $32.5 million after 10 days. Those numbers are not far removed from Sinister and The Grudge 2, which had respective follow-up weekends of $8.8 million and $7.6 million, bringing their totals to $31.7 million and $31.3 million. If Saw X can stay closely aligned with the former, it could get itself over $50 million, a number this franchise has not seen since the fifth installment in 2008. The film is already in profit for Lionsgate, which alone is a win for a company that has not had many of late.
When all is said and done this season, The Nun II could become the horror victor. After three weeks atop the box office, the Conjuring spin-off added $2.5 million in its fifth weekend and pushed its total over $81 million. The Equalizer 3 can lay claim as the season’s top film, with $88.8 million in its bank currently. That is, until next weekend when Taylor Swift wipes everyone out. 20th Century Studios also has A Haunting in Venice still out there, and after $2.7 million more this weekend, its numbers are at least better than The Creator (with $58.5 million overseas), even if they’re not enough to get anyone excited about a fourth outing for Branagh’s Poirot.
Fathom continues to profit off of the Duck Dynasty origin story The Blind, which made $3.9 million over the weekend, a 12% boost from last weekend despite losing 401 theaters. Its total stands at $10.4 million. Also in the origin of fortunes, Dumb Money made $2.1 million, bringing its total to $10.6 million. It could become the first (initially) limited release of the year to pass $12 million. How much more would it have made if it just started wide? Heck, the 30th anniversary of Hocus Pocus made it into the top 10, going wide in 1,430 theaters and grossing $1.5 million this weekend.
Going down the rabbit hole of limited releases this week, Rebecca Miller’s She Came to Me with Peter Dinklage, Anne Hathaway, and Marisa Tomei made $360,000 in 355 theaters, a $1,014 per-theater average. Kitty Green’s The Royal Hotel made $335,000 in 267 theaters ($1,254 PTA), and Pedro Almodovar’s short film Strange Way of Life with Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal made $205,000 in 276 theaters for a $742 PTA. However, A24’s Dicks: The Musical grossed $220,800 in just 7 theaters for a $31,542 PTA, the eighth best of 2023.
Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour scared away multiple releases next week, and with $100+ million in pre-sales already, it is going to have one of the five best openings of the year. Can it beat Barbie’s $162 million start?
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]
Thumbnail image by ©Universal Pictures