‘The Exorcist’: The Strange Path to Massive Success for the Unlikely Christmas Smash

Christmas Day is one of the biggest moviegoing days of the year.

New holiday release always open by then, and often do so the Friday before.

But not the day after.“The Exorcist” opened on December 26, 1973.Director William Friedkin, interviewed by Peter Biskind in 1996, was still angry about it, arguing that the studio’s release strategy hurt his film.

But “The Exorcist” was a huge hit — it’s the ninth all-time highest domestic grossing sound film, adjusted for inflation — and second only to “Titanic” among Christmas period releases in the past 50 year.But Friedkin apparently believes it could have been bigger.Some context: “The Exorcist” was a blockbuster typical of its time, sharing some elements with “The Godfather,” which was released almost two years earlier.

They were both based on bestselling novels.

Neither cast had stars who could guarantee success.

An R rating meant cutting off younger audiences and those who shunned more adult content.

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