Try to keep your heads on straight, horror fans: In a mind-twisting spin no one could’ve seen coming, Universal Pictures is reviving The Exorcist for a completely new film trilogy — one set to terrorize theaters as soon as 2023, while giving Peacock viewers first dibs on streaming access.
Even cooler? The Exorcist revival is set to bring Ellen Burstyn back from the original 1970s franchise to reprise her Oscar-nominated performance as Linda Blair’s mother, Chris MacNeil. Leslie Odom Jr., who earned an Academy Award nod for his role as singer Sam Cooke in One Night in Miami…, will also star in a role that’s yet to be revealed.
Peacock has confirmed to SYFY WIRE the streamer and Universal Pictures, both under the NBCUniversal umbrella, have teamed to bring three new movies inspired by the smash 1973 classic (and its sequels) to theaters and the Peacock platform, with David Gordon Green (who helmed the successful Halloween franchise reboot) set as screenwriter and director. Green’s involvement has been brewing for a while in partnership with Blumhouse and Morgan Creek Productions, both of which are still attached.
As you might expect, story specifics are being kept under wraps for now. But the new trilogy is being billed as both a “continuation” and “fresh new take” on the demon-rebuking horror thriller series, with the studio acquiring “worldwide rights to create new IP based on the Exorcist franchise in partnership with Blumhouse and Morgan Creek,” as Universal and Peacock explained in a joint statement.
Peacock’s involvement appears to ratify the platform’s growing role in giving major new Universal Studios film projects a huge home streaming presence. The New York Times cites unnamed sources close to the matter in reporting the overall three-film deal exceeds $400 million, and could potentially give Peacock a premiere-date streaming option for the second and third films.
The studio’s own messaging also appears to hint at that possibility. “Encompassing three films in total, the deal further solidifies the partnership between Universal and Peacock. Along with Universal’s celebrated history with Blumhouse, the deal gives both property and audiences optionality without forgoing the theatrical experience,” their shared statement reads.
Blumhouse CEO (and all-around horror producing maven) Jason Blum sounded plenty excited at the prospect of going toe-to-toe with the devil on both the big screen and — should we be creeped out by this? — in your living room.
“Blumhouse has always experienced incredible partnership from the team at Universal, and I’m grateful to [Universal Pictures chair] Donna Langley and [NBCUniversal vice chair of Business Affairs & Operations] Jimmy Horowitz for believing in the vision of David's film and having the foresight to be flexible with distribution, so the team feels top notch support through the lifeline of the film,” he said in a statement. “They're committed to theatrical exhibition and also serving streaming viewers well by bringing an exciting franchise like The Exorcist to Peacock too.”
The deal marks the latest in a string of powerhouse horror scores as part of the ongoing collaboration between Universal and Blumhouse. The studio and production house have previously united on a slew of big box office scares, including Get Out, Split, and The Invisible Man. All together, films produced under the partnership have grossed more than $3 billion at the global box office — including ten first-place openings at the time of their films’ U.S. theatrical debuts.
Of course, The Exorcist brings plenty of box office firepower on its own. The original 1973 film has grossed more than $441 million, “making it the highest domestic grossing horror film for a 44-year-long run,” as the studio points out. Directed by William Friedkin, the horror masterpiece would go on to be nominated for ten Academy Awards, breaking new ground as the first horror film ever to receive a Best Picture nomination. In the same season, Burstyn also earned a Best Actress nod for her fraught, walking-on-eggshells performance as Blair’s mother.
The new trilogy features a story created by Scott Teems (Halloween Kills, The Quarry), Danny McBride (Halloween Kills, Halloween) and Green himself, with the story being written by Green and Peter Sattler (Broken Diamonds). Jason Blum will serve as producer on behalf of Blumhouse, with David Robinson and James Robinson producing for Morgan Creek. Green, McBride and Couper Samuelson are executive producers, with Ryan Turek overseeing the project for Blumhouse.
The announcement also comes with a scary good early gift: a firm date when we can expect The Exorcist to once again take possession of our nightmares. Just in time for the spooky season, the first film (whose title hasn’t yet been revealed) is set to debut in theaters on Oct. 13, 2023.
(Universal Studios, Peacock, and SYFY WIRE are all owned by NBCUniversal.)