The Cultural Impact of The Exorcist
The Cultural Impact of The Exorcist is a 20-minute documentary featuring real-time audience reactions from movie-goers seeing the film for the first time in 1974. The Exorcist was released in 24 theaters in the United States and Canada in late December and audiences flocked to see it. The documentary starts with excited and nervous people standing in line outside a California theater, unsure and scared of what to expect. Lines get so long that people are waiting for up to 7 hours just to buy a ticket.
Theater owners found themselves hiring security guards and adding extra staff to handle the huge and hysterical audiences. There were reports of people literally throwing up in the aisles and smelling salts were used to revive some movie-goers. Papers were reporting of people falling victim to heart attacks and miscarriages during showings; a psychiatric journal carried a paper on “cinematic neurosis” triggered by the film. In the documentary, a young theatre employee looks directly at the camera and says, “We have a lot of people throwing up and a lot of people shuddering, but the thing that really surprises me is that people faint. I’ve never in my life known a movie where people would faint. I mean, it’s hard to make people faint.”
No one had ever seen anything like The Exorcist before and this short documentary does a notable job of capturing the impact the film had on American movie-goers.