Exorcist: The Beginning

  • Exorcist: The Beginning box office
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  • Directed By: Renny Harlin
  • Written By: Alexi Hawley
  • Release Date: August 20, 2004
  • Domestic Distributor: Morgan Creek (through Warner Bros)
  • Cast: Stellan Skarsgård, Izabella Scorupco, James D’Arcy

Box Office Info:
Budget: $52 million Financed by: Morgan Creek
Domestic Box Office: $41,821,986 Overseas Box Office: $36,178,600

Morgan Creek head James G. Robinson resurrected the Exorcist property in 1997 and began hiring writers to pen the prequel.  John Frankenheimer signed on as director in August 2001 and he cast Liam Neeson as the lead and a July 2003 release was penciled in.  Frankenheimer left the picture in June 2002 after his health had deteriorated and he died one month later.  Neeson then exited the project.

Paul Schrader was brought on as director and this became one of the more bizarre troubled productions.  Filming began in November 2002 with a $38M budget set.  After Paul Schrader screened his first edit, James G. Robinson did not think the picture was commercial and he hired another editor to recut the movie and Schrader was removed.  Robinson then made the strange decision to scrap the entire movie that was already made and reshoot the film under the direction of Renny Harlin as Exorcist: The Beginning.  The discarded and incomplete Schrader movie remained buried for 2 years and was eventually released as Dominion: Prequel To The Exorcist. 

According to James G. Robinson, the budget for Exorcist: The Beginning was between $52 and $54 million and Schrader’s scrapped film cost between $32 and $34 million.  Morgan Creek distributed the troubled fourth entry in the series stateside through Warner Bros and paid for the hefty P&A costs.  It was dated for the slow end of summer frame on August 20, 2004 and bowed against Without a Paddle and the wide expansion of Open Water.  Reviews were dreadful.

In an interview with the LA Times Robinson said: “I get out with my money if we open at $40 million.  If we hit that, nobody wins, nobody loses.”  It opened with less than half of what Robinson hoped for at $18,054,001 — winning the sleepy weekend box office.  Audiences gave Exorcist: The Beginning a poor C cinemascore, which is not uncommon for horror films, but it sank 60.8% the following frame to $7,081,057.  The domestic run closed with $41,821,986. Morgan Creek would see returned about $23 million after theaters take their percentage of the gross, plus a fee to Warner Bros, which would not cover their P&A spend and leave the budget in the red.

Overseas, the picture was released in most markets through Warner Bros and pulled in weak numbers for a film with this price tag.  Italy was the only market where the film played to decent numbers with $7.5 million.  The overseas total was $36,178,600.  After the failure of this movie, Morgan Creek gave Paul Schrader $35,000 for visual effects and sound mixing to get Dominion: Prequel To The Exorcist in some sort of releasable form and it was given a token theatrical release.

The amount of capital hemorrhaged from the two failed Exorcist pictures, began a quick decline for Morgan Creek into a barely operational company.  Shortly after, they lost a bundle on the $90 million The Good Shepherd (2006) and had two inexpensive non-performers in 2007 —  Georgia Rule and Sydney White.  The company suspended operations after 2007.  They resurfaced in 2011 with the disaster Dream House and Morgan Creek also had a major stake in the remake/prequel of The Thing, which also fizzled.  2011 looked like the end of Morgan Creek.  Nothing was in their pipeline except a gestating Tupac biopic.  In October 2014, James G. Robinson sold off international rights to the Morgan Creek library for $36.75 million, which went directly into their production fund for All Eyez On Mewhich flopped.

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