Big bucks are put up for an Exorcist rebirth; Patricia Heaton will take her new sitcom to Nashville; is "family movie night" still a thing?; and a kid-centric social app moves into the streaming wars ... see the details below.
But Will They Use Tubular Bells?
We don't know yet if the classic theme music from The Exorcist will return, but Universal Pictures and NBCUniversal's streaming service Peacock have partnered with horror house Blumhouse Productions and independent Morgan Creek Productions in a reported $400M deal for the worldwide rights to a new franchise based on the classic 1973 film The Exorcist.
Directed by William Friedkin (The Devil and Father Amorth), from a screenplay by Catholic William Peter Blatty (based on his novel of the same name), The Exorcist starred Ellen Burstyn as the actress mother of a demon-possessed child. Max von Sydow and Jason Miller played Jesuit priests battling evil to save the child.
According to Deadline:
To be directed by David Gordon Green (Halloween), the franchise will star Hamilton‘s Leslie Odom Jr. as the father of a possessed child who seeks out the aid of Burstyn’s Exorcist character Chris MacNeil, mother of the possessed Regan MacNeil (played in the original 1973 film by Linda Blair).
According to Universal, the franchise will encompass three films in total and is described as a “continuation,” rather than a remake, of the 1973 original...
Burstyn didn't participate in any of the Exorcist sequels or prequels, or in the 2016 Fox TV series (also produced by Morgan Creek).
Deadline also reports that the first film in the new trilogy should hit theaters on Oct. 13, 2023; others could premiere on Peacock.
And if you've forgotten Tubular Bells:
Although her 2019 CBS comedy Carol's Second Act didn't make it to a second season, Catholic actress Patricia Heaton has the long-running sitcoms The Middle and Everybody Loves Raymond on her resume.
She also has a sister who's a Dominican sister in Nashville, where Heaton, a mother of four sons with British husband David Hunt, lives when she's not in Los Angeles.
Hunt and Heaton, through their FourBoys Entertainment company, are among the executive producers of the new, as-yet-unnamed comedy for Fox, which has received a script-to-series commitment (meaning they don't have to shoot a pilot first).
Details are sparse, but Fox is partnering also with Kapital Entertainment (also a partner on Carol's Second Act), which operates production facilities in Nashville, where the show will be shot.
“I’m looking forward to working with Fox on this series,” Heaton said. “I have gotten to know and love Nashville over the years while visiting my son and my sister there. It’s a wonderful city with an incredible quality of life, along with a vibrant culture and so much creative energy. I want to help support and grow the entertainment production business there and shooting a TV series in Nashville would provide hundreds of jobs for local cast and crew.”
What Would You Pick for a Family Movie Night?
As entertainment becomes more niche, and as progressive-minded producers feel comfortable expanding their values beyond entertainment meant for adults, it's getting challenging for families (especially Catholic and other Christian ones) to find films suitable for all ages.
A recent piece in Angelus, the news service of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, tackled this issue. Family Theater Productions, based on legendary Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, contributed to the story.
FTP's head of production, Father David Guffey, C.S.C., commented in the piece:
“When you say ‘family content,’ you really have to ask what people mean by that,” he told Angelus. “I’ve had people tell me that a hard PG-13 movie was family [content]. And I think, ‘Well, not if your family has got 5- and 6-year-olds in it!’ It really depends on your perspective.”
Because of its vagueness, said Father Guffey, the term “family film” can become a catchall marketing label for studios to draw a bigger audience, even if it ends up offending some.
Another interviewee, Catholic film reviewer Deacon Steven Greydanus, said:
“Parents [should be] watching movies with their children, as opposed to just sitting them down and turning it on and then walking away,” he said. “It’s the way not only to introduce kids to good movies, but also to introduce them to how to engage a movie, how to watch it, how to think about it.”
BTW, we here at FTP think our films The Dating Project, The House That Rob Built and PRAY: THE STORY OF PATRICK PEYTON, make great family viewing (but The Dating Project may be best for middle-schoolers and up). Learn about them all here.
Have You Heard of Grom Social?
Apparently, Grom Social is a social-media app for the under-13 crowd, that's been around since 2012.
Grom has also hired a new president: Paul Ward, who formerly was a programming executive at Nickelodeon. Grom's goal is to become a broad-based entertainment producer, including videos series, and comic books and graphic novels.
According to a story in Forbes:
Armed with safe social media for kids, animation production services and original IP generated by Hicks and Curiosity Ink Media, Grom Social is ready to seriously entertain today’s kids and families. Given the value of these non-adult demo groups, there is an audience hungry for content that these burgeoning streaming services, among other platforms, can take advantage of.
This is a mainstream entertainment company, so its definition of "safe" might not match yours, so it would be a good idea to give it a thorough vetting before setting your kids loose on it.
Image: Adobe Stock
Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions.