Linda Blair in “The Exorcist" at the Figge Art Museum -- October 26.

Thursday, October 26, 5:30 p.m.

Figge Art Museum, 225 West Second Street, Davenport IA

Presenting a free screening of one of the most popular, awarded, influential, and terrifying fright films ever made, Davenport's Figge Art Museum will celebrate the approach of Halloween with a John Deere Auditorium showing of 1973's original The Exorcist, director William Friedkin's and author William Peter Blatty's tale of supernatural horror, and a legitimate cinematic classic that, adjusted for inflation, is the ninth highest-grossing film of all time in the U.S. and the top-grossing R-rated film of all time.

Based on Blatty's 1971 novel of the same name, The Exorcist stars Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Jason Miller, and Linda Blair, and follows the demonic possession of 12-year-old Regan MacNeil and her mother Chris' attempts to rescue her through an exorcism by two Catholic priests. Blatty, who also produced, and Friedkin, his choice as director, had difficulty casting the film, as their choice of relative unknowns Burstyn, Blair, and Miller, instead of major stars, drew opposition from Warner Bros. Pictures executives. Principal photography was also difficult, taking place in both hot deserts and refrigerated sets. Many cast and crew were injured, some died, and unusual accidents delayed shooting. Production took twice as long as scheduled and cost almost three times the initial budget; the many mishaps have led to a belief that the film was cursed.

The Exorcist was released in 24 theaters in the United States on December 26, 1973. Reviews were mixed, but audiences waited in long lines during cold weather. Some viewers reportedly suffered adverse physical reactions, as well, fainting or vomiting to shocking scenes such as a realistic cerebral angiography. Many children were allowed to see it, leading to charges that the MPAA ratings board had accommodated Warner by giving the film an R rating instead of the X rating to ensure the troubled production and its commercial success. Several cities attempted to ban it outright or prevent children from attending. Yet at the end of its original theatrical run, the film grossed $193 million, and has a lifetime gross of $441 million with subsequent re-releases.

The cultural conversation around the film helped it become the first horror film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, as well as nine others. Blatty won Best Adapted Screenplay, while the sound engineers took Best Sound. It has had several sequels and was the highest-grossing R-rated horror film (unadjusted for inflation) until the release of 2017's It. The Exorcist also had a significant influence on pop culture, and several publications regard it as one of the greatest horror films ever made. In 2010, the Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." A sequel set 50 years later, The Exorcist: Believer, was released earlier this month, with Burstyn reprising her Oscar-nominated role as Chris MacNeil.

The Exorcist will be screened in the John Deere Auditorium on October 26, and admission to the 5:30 p.m. showing is free, though seating is limited and available on a first-come/first-served basis. For more information, call (563)326-7804 and visit

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