Universal Pictures Spending Big on New ‘Exorcist’ Trilogy

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LOS ANGELES – Heads are spinning in Hollywood: Universal Pictures and its streaming service cousin closed a mega deal worth more than $400 million to buy a new “Exorcist” trilogy, signaling a sudden competitive desire. tech giants These are disrupting the entertainment industry economy.

Donna Langley, head of the movie studio, peacockNBCUniversal’s fledgling streaming service will make the acquisition, which is expected to be announced this week, according to three informants. Speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the deal, which is still private, they said the price was around the $465 million Netflix paid in March for two sequels to the 2019 whodunit.Knives Out

Universal did not immediately comment.

“Knives Out” and “Exorcist” deals – both Bryan Lourd, Creative Artists superagent — solidify a new streaming gold rush. The dazzling talent paydays of 2017 and 2018, Netflix gathers famous television creatorsThey migrated to the movie world.

The proliferation of streaming services and the scramble for subscribers has driven up prices for established movie properties and filmmakers. At the same time, traditional film companies are under more pressure than ever to control the same creative assets; it became a movie severely impaired by the pandemic and may never fully recover.

But it’s surprising that Universal and Peacock came to the table in such a big way. NBCUniversal, owned by Comcast, has begun dedicating more resources to less-watched ones. peacock. inbound programming Tokyo Olympics eg available in service. But Hollywood has so far viewed the one-year-old Peacock as unwilling to compete for top movie deals.

Universal’s decision to revisit “The Exorcist” is in itself striking. R-rated 1973 film about a confused mother (Ellen Burstyn) and her demonically possessed daughter (Linda Blair) were a global box office sensation – “Mary Pickford is the biggest thing to hit the industry since popcorn, pornography and ‘The Godfather’” Vincent Canby wrote In The New York Times in 1974. The genre of film held sacred by fans and critics has become a cultural touchstone.

Universal is not remaking “The Exorcist,” which it directed. William Friedkin from a scenario William Peter Blatty Adapted from his own novel. But for the first time, the studio will return Oscar winner Miss Burstyn to the series. (Two forgettable “Exorcist” sequels and a prequel were made without it between 1977 and 2004.) Joining him will be. Leslie Odom Jr.on Broadway, winning a Tony for “Hamilton” and nominated for a double Oscar for “One Night in Miami“He will play the father of a possessed child. Desperate for help, he tracks down Miss Burstyn’s character.

Suffice to say, Satan isn’t thrilled to see him again.

David Gordon GreenKnown for rebooting Universal’s blockbuster “Halloween” horror franchise in 2018, he will direct and serve as screenwriter for new “Exorcist” films. horror display Jason Blum (The “Get Out,” “Purge”) is co-produced with David Robinson, who owns the movie rights to “Exorcist” by independent Morgan Creek Entertainment. Blumhouse film director Couper Samuelson is among the executive producers. (Blumhouse has a first look deal with Universal.)

The first movie in the trilogy is expected to be released in late 2023. According to one of the people who were briefed on the subject, the second and third films may be screened at Peacock, according to the terms of the agreement.

Credit…Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Cinemacon

In terms of business, the deal reflects the company’s courage. Miss Langley, president of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group. After the pandemic that brought film production to a standstill, spearheaded an effort to develop security protocols to get assembly lines moving again. In the case of the “Exorcist,” it started a push within NBCUniversal to get the big money deal.

The cost of the package is very high because Ms. Langley and their deal maven, Jimmy Horowitzdid not play by the old economic rules of Hollywood; They’ve taken risks and been played by new ones, used by streaming rebels like Netflix, Amazon, and Apple to surpass traditional movie companies, at least until now.

The legacy model, which studios have used for decades to strike high-profile film deals, involves paying fees upfront and then sharing some of the revenue from worldwide ticket sales, DVD purchases and television rebroadcast licenses. The bigger the hit, the bigger the “backend” paydays for certain talent partners.

Streaming giants have done it differently. They pay more upfront – often much more – rather than any back-end payments, which gives them full control over their future income. This means talent partners get paid as if their projects were a hit before they were released (or even made). Risk to talent: If their project is a monstrous hit, they won’t get a share of the unexpected profits.

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