In just a couple of days, It – which has a current domestic gross of $150m – will pass Get Out in the history books to become the 2nd highest-grossing R-Rated horror movie of all time. The Stephen King adaptation won’t have to settle for second place for very long, though, because current projections have it passing $300m domestic before all is said and done, which will be more than enough to surpass The Exorcist and become the biggest R-Rated horror movie ever.
Not too bad for a scary clown movie.
Except when the time comes that It does indeed pass The Exorcist we’ll be looking at another Titanic vs. Gone With the Wind situation where the actual numbers say one thing but inflation-adjusted numbers something very different. Because in actual numbers The Exorcist grossed $232.9m, but in inflation-adjusted dollars $983.2m. To put it another way, if The Exorcist in 1973 had sold its tickets at the average 2017 ticket price it would have grossed damn near a billion in the U.S. and Canada alone. No movie, not even Star Wars: The Force Awakens, has ever come that close to a billion in domestic gross. Only a handful even have after you adjust for inflation. That’s why The Exorcist is currently #9 on BoxOfficeMojo’s list of highest grossing, inflation-adjusted movies.
Of course, 2017 and 1973 are two entirely different landscapes for entertainment, and historical comparisons at the box office are always tricky for that very reason. The way films used to be made, marketed and consumed bears virtually no resemblance to the way we things are done now. Not to mention the level of competition for our attention from other sources of entertainment. So, comparing It’s performance to The Exorcist’s is of little practical importance. What matters in the moment is that things were really bad at the box office and now they’re a lot better, directly because of It. Any film that can get people out to the theater anymore should be celebrated.
But while I knew The Exorcist was a monumental film in its day I didn’t quite realize just how monumental. So, kudos, people of 1973. You really, really loved letting little Linda Blair and her magically twisting head scare the shit out of you. Here in 2017, we’re making do with a scary clown. We kind of like it, too. But, damn. We’ve got nothing on you, ’73.
Other films ahead of It on the inflation-adjusted chart include: