The X-Files 2

Twentieth Century Fox

Box-office projections for the new X-Files movie aren't huge. Then, again, neither is the movie.

The X-Files: I Want to Believe, the first assignment for agents Mulder and Scully in more than six years and the second big-screen outing for the storied TV franchise, reportedly was made for $35 million.

In modern Hollywood, that's not even chimp change.

"Space Chimps cost more than that," said Exhibitor Relations Co.'s Jeff Bock.

Lots of films cost more than the new X-Files movie, including the old X-Files movie, which cost a reputed $66 million to produce back in the halcyon days of $1-a-gallon gas in 1998.

If Fox, the studio behind the franchise, wasn't willing to bet big, then it was willing to bet small, from the modest budget to the modest storyline—a stand-alone tale requiring little or no familiarity with the many machinations of the 1993-2002 conspiracy-minded series starring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, both of whom reprise their roles in the new movie.

"If this indeed was made for $35 million," Bock said, "this will be a big money-maker for Fox."

Early grosses today showed The X-Files was running "pretty even" with the new Will Ferrell-John C. Reilly comedy, Step Brothers, Bock said. The two movies are expected to vie for a distant second behind The Dark Knight, which is expected to top $300 million overall by Sunday.

Box Office Guru's Gitesh Pandya pegged X-Files to bow in third, behind Step Brothers, with a gross in the low $20 millions. Bock was somewhat more bullish, calling for the high $20 millions.

A decade ago, the original X-Files movie opened with $30 million, a No. 1 start that devolved into an underwhelming finish of about $84 million.

Pandya sees The Dark Knight, not the franchise's history, as the main box-office challenge facing The X-Files: I Want to Believe.

"There is tremendous audience overlap between the films, and quite frankly the Batman-Joker feud is the must-see pop-culture event of the moment," Pandya wrote in an email.

Bock thinks the long layoff between X-Files adventures will be the big test, bigger even than Batman.

"No matter what," Bock said, "this film is going to do what it's going to do."

And as long as it does something, that could be enough.

Said Bock: "Obviously, the bar is lowered for this film."

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