The Exorcist: Believer’s Unfortunately Low Box Office and Oppenheimer’s Surprisingly Low Uptake

who has been covering movies and pop culture since 2007

Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photo: Universal Pictures

This is the latest edition of the Movies Fantasy League newsletter. The drafting window for this season has closed, but you can still sign up to get the newsletter, which provides a weekly recap of box-office performance, awards nominations, and critical chatter on all the buzziest movies.

Week two of the MFL is in the books. In this edition, we’re looking at the box office results for David Gordon Green’s poorly received Exorcist sequel, sharing stats about which movies were the most popular choices among the many thousands of MFL teams, and providing a snapshot of the Movie Podcasters League. All that plus the leaderboard.

If anyone was holding out hope that Green’s The Exorcist: Believer could get the same kind of numbers as his 2018 Halloween reboot, that was never in the cards. Opening at $26 million — only a few million more than PAW Patrol’s No. 1 total last week — gives Exorcist drafters 26 points plus an additional 20 for winning the weekend. That doesn’t leave the movie with much of a ceiling in terms of total box-office tally, especially with Taylor Swift lurking.

PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie followed up its No. 1 weekend last week with another $15 million for a cumulative total of 58 points ($38 million to date plus 20 bonus points last week) for the 444 teams that picked that film. Saw X had a decent second week and is up to $32 million total, while The Creator sits at a disappointing $25 million.

That brings us to an early (very early) leaderboard with 13 teams tied for first place with 136 points each, thanks to each of those squads containing The Exorcist: Believer, PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie, and Saw X.

As the season rolls along, we’ll be looking at various stats and trends in all sorts of ways. The obvious place to start is the big question: Which movies were straight up the most popular? The findings are pretty fascinating.

After Everything Everywhere All at Once proved to be the critical ingredient in the winning rosters last year, I expected Oppenheimer, currently the front-runner to win Best Picture, to run away with the most-drafted-movie crown, particularly since it was going for $50, compared to EEAAO’s $60.

Not so! Oppenheimer sits outside the top five, which instead contains:

Poor Things: rostered by 4,311 participants
Killers of the Flower Moon: rostered by 3,641 participants
Barbie: rostered by 3,010 participants
Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour: rostered by 2,643 participants
American Fiction: rostered by 2,426 participants

What this tells me is that we’re dealing with, on balance, an astute group of drafters. Last week, when I mentioned the movies we had undervalued, both Poor Things and American Fiction were mentioned. At $10, Yorgos Lanthimos’s Poor Things barnstormed Venice and now sits as a major awards contender. And American Fiction, which won the incredibly prescient TIFF Audience Award, was a very attractive buy at $5 given that writer-director Cord Jefferson and star Jeffrey Wright are both getting awards buzz.

The most-picked numbers also tell me that a lot of people wisely waited until late in the sign-up window to draft their rosters. The Taylor Swift concert film wasn’t even announced until September. The TIFF buzz for American Fiction was a late-breaker too. Drafters this season were patient, cunning, and frugal. God help us all.

We’ve mentioned the Movie Podcasters League, the league within a league in which folks from your favorite shows are pitting their rosters against one another’s. These podcasts include:

Blank Check (Griffin Newman and David Sims)
Cows in the Field (Justin Khoo)
Eye of the Duck (Dom Nero and Adam Volerich)
Film and Whiskey (Bob Book)
Filmspotting (Adam Kempenaar)
Little Gold Men (David Canfield, Rebecca Ford, Richard Lawson, and Katey Rich)
The Mixed Reviews (Gavin Mevius and Luis Rendon)
Screen Drafts (Clay Keller)
Subtitles On (Sean Clements)
The Next Picture Show (Genevieve Koski, Keith Phipps, and Scott Tobias)
This Had Oscar Buzz (Chris Feil and Joe Reid)
Unspooled (Jessica Cisneros, Amy Nicholson, Josh Richmond, and Paul Scheer)
We Hate Movies (Andrew Jupin and Eric Szyszka)

Jumping out to an early lead — thanks to The Exorcist: Believer — are Clay Keller and Andrew Jupin with 46 points apiece. You can check out their rosters by clicking their names on the scoreboard, but it’s worth noting that they both also picked Swift’s Eras film AND Trolls Band Together. The MFL creates the strangest fan constituencies.

There was life in the MFL before The Eras Tour opened in theaters, and there will be life in the MFL after The Eras Tour opens in theaters this weekend. They will not be the same. Let’s get some real points going!

The Exorcist’s Low Box Office and Oppenheimer’s Low Uptake