Universal Spends $400 Million on New ‘Exorcist’ Trilogy Starring Ellen Burstyn, Leslie Odom Jr.

Ellen Burstyn Variety Sundance Portrait Studio
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Universal is shelling out an eye-popping $400 million to buy a new “Exorcist” trilogy with plans to screen some of the films on Peacock, its new streaming service. In a coup, Ellen Burstyn, the Oscar-winning actress who first did battle with the devil in the 1973 original, will reprise her role as Chris MacNeil.

David Gordon Green, the filmmaker of the studio’s latest “Halloween” reboot, is directing the upcoming “Exorcist” franchise, which will be produced by Blumhouse. In an ironic twist, Blumhouse made a name for itself producing low-budget horror hits like “Get Out” and “The Purge,” which enjoyed capacious profit margins due to their paltry costs. Streaming has scrambled those economics.

The pact is the latest in a long line of massive deals for movies signed by streaming services. It follows the more than $450 million that Netflix shelled out for the rights to two “Knives Out” sequels, as well as the $125 million that Amazon paid for “Coming 2 America” and the $200 million the e-retailer spent on the Chris Pratt sci-fi adventure “The Tomorrow War.” In recent months, media conglomerates like Disney, WarnerMedia and Viacom have launched subscription services, and the increased competition has led to a boom time for content creators. In this race, Peacock has found itself punching up, unable to land buzzy projects to equal the likes of “The Crown” (Netflix), “Ted Lasso” (Apple TV Plus) or “The Boys”(Amazon Prime), but this deal should help raise its profile.

The first of three planned “Exorcist” movies is expected to debut theatrically on Oct. 13, 2023. Subsequent installments have not been dated and will potentially land directly on Peacock.

“Blumhouse has always experienced incredible partnership from the team at Universal, and I’m grateful to Donna Langley and 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. They’re committed to theatrical exhibition and will also [be] serving streaming viewers well by bringing an exciting franchise like the ‘Exorcist’ to Peacock too,” said Jason Blum, the CEO and founder of Blumhouse. “I’m grateful to be working with David Robinson and the great team at Morgan Creek on this iconic franchise.”

The original 1973 film “The Exorcist” — directed by William Friedkin — was a critical and commercial smash, earning $441 million at the global box office. It nabbed 10 Oscar nominations and became the first horror film ever recognized in the best picture category. The first “Exorcist” centered on a mother (Burstyn) who hires two Catholic priests to perform an exorcism on her demonically possessed 12-year-old (Linda Blair). It spawned two less-than-thrilling sequels.

Joining the cast is Leslie Odom Jr., of “Hamilton” and “One Night in Miami” acclaim, whose character tracks down Burstyn’s after his child becomes possessed.

Along with Blum, David Robinson, via his company Morgan Creek Entertainment, will also serve as a producer. Blumhouse executive Couper Samuelson is executive producing.

“There’s no better time to be joining forces with the team at Peacock, reuniting with the great team at Universal and finally getting to work with my friends at Blumhouse, than on this classic franchise,” Robinson said in a statement. “David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, Scott Teems and Peter Sattler have put together a compelling continuation of this iconic tale and I can’t wait to bring this to fans around the world.”

Odom is represented by CAA, Untitled Entertainment and Jackoway Austen Tyerman Wertheimer Mandelbaum Morris Bernstein Trattner & Klein. Burstyn is represented by UTA and MGMT Entertainment. Green is represented by CAA, Cinetic Media and Pryor Cashman LLP.

The New York Times first reported the deal.