Early B.O. Tracking: ‘Step Brothers’ with the Edge Over ‘X-Files’

In the wake of The Dark Knight (Warner Bros) and the biggest box office weekend in movie history, two films roll out this Friday (7/25). The Will Ferrell/John C. Reilly R-rated comedy Step Brothers (Sony) is looking considerably stronger than Fox’s The X-Files: I Want To Believe (Fox).

Industry tracking is decent for Step Brothers, but it is only nominally stronger than February’s R-rated Ferrell comedy Semi-Pro (New Line), which opened to just $15M. In fact, Ferrell’s only other R-rated comedy, Old School, delivered just $17.45M back in 2003.

Even, the impeccably-reviewed R-rated 2008 comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Universal) topped out at just $17.72M in April, although it did go on to generate $62.93M domestic. The R rating is a real obstacle to posting a big opening weekend number, but Step Brothers will be driven by Males Under 25 and Males 25 Plus, so that will help. As of Sunday (7/20), I am penciling in $17M-$22M for this Adam McKay-directed comedy on opening weekend.

It has been 10 years since Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) appeared on the big screen in The X-Files: Fight the Future, and the Fox television series, which ran for nine seasons, exited prime-time early this decade. I was a huge fan of the television series through the 1990’s, but the TV show “lost me” at some point, and I was apparently not alone. The final episode of the show aired on May 19, 2002, and it finished only No. 3 in its time-slot.

The Fox marketing folks are attempting to re-boot this franchise, but it has been uphill all the way. The X-Files was at its television ratings peak in 1998. The 18-24-year-old moviegoers of today were in the 8-14-year-old range when the show was really hot.

Aside from relevance for today’s core ticket-buyers, The X-Files: I Want To Believe has the added disadvantage of going toe-to-toe with The Dark Knight. They are both rated PG-13, but one is a record-breaking phenomenon that a high percentage of moviegoers will see twice, and the other feels out-of-date, warmed over and a bit musty.

It is difficult to imagine that The X-Files: I Want To Believe can break out in any meaningful way. At the moment, I am predicting an opening in the $14M-$19M range, but I will update my numbers for both X-Files and Step Brothers later in the week.