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

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

Step Brothers Movie Stills
John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell star in "Step Brothers"

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PG-13, but one is a record-breaking phenomenon that a high percentage of moviegoers will see twice, and the other feels out-of-date, warmed over and a bit musty.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.