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John Marston

The Exorcist (1973)

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15 hours ago, John Marston said:

the ultimate horror movie




its original run was 193m domestic which adjusts to  $892,754,000


I haven't seen it yet. Wonder why it was so huge. 


Groundbreaking special effects (that still hold up today), shocking subject matter, it was the first major film to traverse many religious/social norms, and it played to the deep-rooted fears many people had about the supernatural and the unknown in disturbingly realistic/grotesque fashion. It is hard to put yourself in the mindset of audiences back then 40+ years after-the-fact, but people hadn't seen such violence/gore depicted on-screen before, and it shocked some people to the point of requiring medical attention. Also, consider that even with the historical stigma against horror films, it was viewed as so accomplished a production that it warranted 10 Oscar nominations (several of which were in major categories). That's simply unheard of either before or since.

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it was a rare breed where a horror film won oscars. Top notch cast, and a 13 year old unknown that is still remembered today for her groundbreaking performance. It built up genuine story and scare rather than have jumps gore for the sake of scares and gross outs. Still there were scares and gross outs in the film. The crawl down the stairs is one of the best moments in horror, ever. 


It is one of my favs. It can play in theaters every year on Halloween with re releases. And each year it could make more as viewers take their friends to experience it. One to own. 

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Ahoy, frequent lurker here who had an account years ago but somehow can't find it, so I re-registered.


Also bumpin' this thread because (a) why not? The Exorcist rules, and (b) a while back I read an excerpt from a book, one of those "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls" -type industry retrospectives, with a chapter pertaining to The Exorcist (specifically the supposed "half-million-dollar lunch" in which Warner Bros. desperately tried to get Friedkin and Blatty to agree to do a sequel).


The relevant part for this thread, though, is that according to the book, at that moment The Exorcist was the all-time highest grossing movie, which made me raise an eyebrow, because I'd never heard that before. In fact, I've never heard it anywhere else since. In fact, I can't even remember what the hell book this was!


While I'm guessing the book must've been mistaken, the more I thought about it the more I realized that even so, The Exorcist must have come pretty darn close. REAL close.

  • I know The Exorcist outgrossed the previous record holder The Godfather by a fair bit ($193M vs. $130M) so it's all a matter of whether it managed to do so in the year and a half before Jaws came and, well, snatched the record with its jaws (~$260M).
  • Looking into it, in its initial run The Exorcist was locked in a year-long battle of the blockbusters with The Sting ($156M).
  • Things get more complicated because most vintage articles reference box office rentals (the studio's share of the revenue) which might not make for apples-apples comparisons to grosses.
    • For maximum confusion, these same articles usually cite weekend grosses and total rentals in the same sentence!
  • According to Wikipedia, Variety magazine reported yearly 1974 rentals for The Exorcist at $66.3M and The Sting at $68.5M.
    • Assuming rentals are half of grosses, that puts both films above The Godfather's $130M
    • But wait! Apparently The Godfather had total rentals at $85M?
      • Assuming a similar rentals:gross ratio that puts both The Exorcist and The Sting at just over $100M at the end of 1974.
  • In September 1975 Universal takes out an ad in Variety boasting Jaws had the highest all-time domestic rentals (though it only cites the above year-end 1974 figures for its competition, including The Exorcist)
    • A month earlier (Aug 1975) Variety had pegged Jaws's gross so far at $100M, which is the last official word I can find about Jaws's gross. (In fact, I think Box Office Mojo's $260M figure is just taking the final $129M rental figure and doubling it).
    • Both The Exorcist and The Sting were surely still earning grosses through 1975 as they both still had a ways to go to hit their totals.
      • Wikipedia cites Box Office Mojo, saying The Exorcist's first run was an entire two years at 105 weeks (though I can't find this info myself).
  • I haven't forgotten that there was a significant re-release in 1979. I can't find any box office info on it, though, and looking at other re-releases of that period I have a hard time imagining it brought in more than $20M or so, but it'd be great to know for sure!

Basically I don't know WTF lol. And this is all domestic, not even going into worldwide figures. I get the sneaking feeling even if it had become the highest grossing film for some brief period in 1975 nobody was paying enough attention to catch it, lol.



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For another neat look into how different the box office was back in the 70s, this NY Times article from 1974 mentions that in a month The Exorcist had grossed a total of $7M domestic... and this was enough to stir up industry buzz that "The Exorcist”...is regarded as a sure shot to bury “The Godfather” under an avalanche of dollars as the all‐time moneymaker."


It was a whole different box office world!




Edited by Daf
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UPDATE! (because I know you've all been waiting on pins and needles)


On a google search I've run across this September 2000 press release from Warner Bros. (about the opening weekend for The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen) that has what might be the most direct and official information about The Exorcist's all-time BO rankings we've yet seen:



The film was an enormous hit, both critically and at the boxoffice, grossing upwards of $150 million in the U.S., making it at the time the second-biggest moneymaker in film history, behind "The Godfather" (1972).


Now that would seem pretty definitive, coming direct from the studio and everything, but it is a little head-scratching for one reason: according to all other sources, The Godfather only ever grossed $130 million in the US...!


The plot thickens, though you'd think if there were any possibility at all for Warner Bros. to brag about having the biggest-ever film at any point, they'd do it and all.



Press release: https://www.warnerbros.com/news/press-releases/warner-bros-pictures-re-release-powerful-classic-exorcist-scares-big-box-office-numbers

Box Office Mojo: https://www.boxofficemojo.com/title/tt0068646/?ref_=bo_se_r_1

The Numbers: https://www.the-numbers.com/movie/Godfather-The#tab=box-office

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