With the prevalence of gore and special effects in horror movies today, it's hard to imagine the impact The Exorcist had when it first came out in 1973. But to mainstream audiences, William Friedkin's demonic picture was unlike anything they had ever witnessed. As you can see from the video below, thousands of moviegoers rushed to theaters to experience the groundbreaking film—and many exited the theater just as quickly when the scares proved too much to handle.
This short documentary shows footage from The Exorcist's historic theatrical run. Lines to see the movie stretched so far that some cinemas provided coffee to patient guests. And when the audiences' reaction to the film became an issue, they also began handing out barf bags.
By today's standards, the effects in The Exorcist aren't particularly violent. The most disturbing scenes involve Linda Blair vomiting pea soup and spinning her head 180°—images that have been parodied countless times. But the movie provoked extreme responses in viewers seeing it for the first time decades ago. Many moviegoers puked, fainted, or fled to the lobby. Some theaters even had ambulances parked outside ready to attend to overstimulated guests.
Despite being unwatchable for some, The Exorcist was able to attract enough viewers to break box office records. You can hear the firsthand reactions of 1973 audiences above.