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'The X-Files': Can it beat Batman?

The new Mulder-Scully adventure and Will Ferrell’s ”Step Brothers” will try — and fail — to unseat ”The Dark Knight” from its box-office throne

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David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson

Geeks rule! This weekend will feature a perfect storm of nerditude in the entertainment world. As The Dark Knight continues its historic box-office run, folks from around the world will congregate at the annual San Diego Comic-Con convention, and anybody who can’t make that shindig will be in line for the latest X-Files movie. Man! Short of a full-fledged Erin Gray comeback, could things get any more perfect for the fanboys?

Why, yes, they could. Because there’s also a new Will Ferrell comedy, Step Brothers, hitting theaters, making sure there’ll be a little something for everyone at the multiplex this weekend. How will it all play out? Read on for my predictions and then put down your replica tricorder for a moment and click over to EW.com’s Summer Box Office Challenge to register your picks.

THE (LIKELY) TOP FIVE

The Dark Knight
Warner Bros. · PG-13 · 4,366 theaters · 2nd weekend
Apparently, this movie has been breaking a lot of records.
Weekend prediction: $80 million

The X-Files: I Want to Believe
Fox · PG-13 · 3,185 theaters · NEW
How long has it been since the last X-Files movie hit theaters? It was so long ago that I vividly recall ordering tickets to the show by dialing in to that technological innovation known as Mr. Moviefone! In the 10 years since, I got a computer and…well, I’m not sure The X-Files has gotten any more popular. Actually, with the show off the air for more than six years, it has probably lost some appeal. Certainly, the all-consuming buzz that may have once accompanied the debut of another chapter in the apparently ongoing saga of Mulder and Scully just doesn’t seem to be there this time, in part because our attention is focused on virtual offspring like Lost these days. Sure, I know that fans of the show (which has stayed strong in syndication and on DVD) are excited to see this film, but I’m not convinced that anybody else is — and it’s only when a movie crosses over to attract folks outside of its core fan base (see: The Dark Knight) that it becomes a blockbuster. So my estimate here is admittedly conservative. The 1998 X-Files movie debuted with $30.1 mil (en route to a decent-but-not-great $83.9 mil domestic sum), and the only reason I’m going higher is because of things like inflation and rises in ticket prices, the fact that Batman is likely to boost the whole box office for a second straight week, and a possible bounce from Comic-Con. If, that is, all those conventioneers in their Vulcan ears are able to peel themselves away from the fun.
Weekend prediction: $32 million

Step Brothers
Columbia · R · 3,094 theaters · NEW
The feature-film reunion of Will Ferrell and his Anchorman/Talladega Nights director/cowriter, Adam McKay, could be what the actor needs to get out of his latest career rut. The comedian’s most recent release, Semi-Pro, bowed earlier this year with a mere $15.1 mil, and it topped out at $33.5 mil (i.e., about as much as Blades of Glory earned on its first weekend alone). Many pundits blamed Semi-Pro‘s R rating for the low turnout, which seems to be a valid point. Of course, this farce, which costars John C. Reilly as Ferrell’s new family member, is also being released with an R, so one should hope that fans won’t be deterred by a stronger rating once again. Just 10 R-rated comedies have ever opened north of $25 mil, so it’ll be a challenge either way.
Weekend prediction: $26 million

Mamma Mia!
Universal · PG-13 · 2,989 theaters · 2nd weekend
Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan‘s Broadway-musical adaptation is a hit, sure, but wait till everybody finds out that — SPOILER ALERT! — they only sing ”Waterloo” over the closing credits!
Weekend prediction: $17 million

Hancock
Columbia · PG-13 · 3,309 theaters · 4th weekend
Thanks to Batman’s box office domination, it sure feels like Will Smith‘s superhero has now gone the way of Erin Gray and Mr. Moviefone.
Weekend prediction: $7 million

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