Exorcist: The Beginning: According to Video Business, the fate of director Paul Shrader's much-debated version of the Exorcist prequel is expected to be decided by month's end--and the film could end up seeing the big screen afterall.

Production house Morgan Creek hired Shrader to direct the movie, but after the $35 million-budgeted film was delivered, Morgan Creek decided it wanted an obviously scarier film than Shrader had envisioned. The studio then brought in Renny Harlin, and his $50 million-budgeted Exorcist: The Beginning bowed in theaters on Aug. 20.

As reported by VB sister publication DVD Exclusive, Shrader's version was still being considered for release but as a DVD premiere--perhaps the most expensive DVD premiere movie ever. Those decisions are finally coming down to the wire.

Related: Exorcist Director Filmed a Real Exorcism, and It Was Terrifying

"We are definitely leaning toward releasing it in some form," said Guy McElwaine, president of Morgan Creek Prods. "Paul was out here all last week, and we talked about it a lot."

Although the film could roll out directly to video, McElwaine said he is considering giving the film a limited theatrical launch first.

Harlin's Exorcist: The Beginning has grossed $31.2 million. Warner Home Video is expected to release Harlin's version, but no street date has been formally announced.

Warner, which also distributed Harlin's Exorcist in theaters, declined further comment about either film.

There was some thought to debuting Shrader's Exorcist prequel in the fourth quarter, timed to the horror-flick-friendly Halloween period.

But "I would say it's more likely to be afterward" in 2005 sometime, said McElwaine, explaining that he'd prefer to be free of both the ultra-competitive Oscar theatrical season and the holiday DVD crunch.

For his part, Shrader is optimistic that some answer will come shortly about finally delivering his film to an audience.

"To my knowledge," the filmmaker said, "the decision is this week's business" at Morgan Creek.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.