The Exorcist changed the game for horror movies when it opened to record-breaking numbers back in 1973.
In a pre-Spielberg and Star Wars era, director William Friedkin’s adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s novel became a true cultural phenomenon, earning $440 million in 1973 money (more than $2 billion in adjusted currency).
I've located some film history that a youtube user has uploaded. The 2 recordings are a very interesting look at that time of history. People of that time were not desensitised as this generation is against violence and horror type films. They seemed a much more innocent population, and a more innocent time in history. People stood in long lines in all types of weather without complaint for their turn to watch this horror film.
People were sitting on the floor playing cards in the theater lobby as well in their wait. Its very interesting to watch the mindset of the people of that time.
In the months following, there was a noteable rise in church attendance.
The Cultural Impact of the Exorcist 1973
An amazing amount of people fainted, could not watch the entire film, and were lett shaking and even crying as they exited the theater. It is believed the reason the Exorcist was so scary was that the movie was based in reality, and people believe that demonic possession can and does occur. The people of 1973 appear to be a much more God-fearing people than those of today.
Audience Lines 1973 for the Exorcist