Will 'The X-Files'' box office success lead to more small-screen-to-cinema transplants?

Moviemakers have long turned to television for inspiration. The Avengers is only the latest example of a boob-tube classic being remade for the big screen. Yet with the financial success of the X-Files movie (budget: $60 million plus; current domestic gross: $80 million plus), a new pop-culture trend seems to have been launched: feature-film spin-offs based on existing TV series.

Okay, so it’s not an entirely original phenomenon. Batman and McHale’s Navy flicks were released during those shows’ mid-’60s runs. But neither made the cultural impact of The X-Files, which enticed people to shell out good money for something they get for free at home by adding more-impressive F/X, a sweeping visual style, a sprinkling of profanity, and a near-miss kiss between Agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson). Mastermind Chris Carter recently revealed he’d been approached by Twentieth Century Fox about doing a second X-Files film. A franchise is born.

People are already starting to wonder what other current TV shows could make the leap. Projects are planned based on two very different animated series about kids: Nickelodeon’s Rugrats and Comedy Central’s South Park. The ‘rats will hit theaters come Thanksgiving, and Kenny cocreators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are at work on a movie script for Paramount. Unlike another rude ‘toon, Beavis and Butt-head Do America, it won’t be a PG-13 affair. Just what South Park needs: an excuse to add more gratuitous violence and cusswords.

In a strange variation on this burgeoning genre, speculation has been circulating that The WB’s cult hit Buffy the Vampire Slayer would stake out ground at our nation’s multiplexes. The twist: Buffy first sprang to life as a flop 1992 film starring Kristy Swanson and Luke Perry. Screenwriter Joss Whedon (who also created the series) wasn’t entirely satisfied with the first Buffy movie, so making a new one would give him a chance to rewrite Hollywood history.

It turns out rumors of Buffy‘s cinematic reincarnation may have been slightly exaggerated. ”There is no new Buffy movie,” says Whedon. ”It’s a fantasy that we may realize, but not for a long while. The show takes too long [to make]. But it’s in the back of my head. It could be cool.” What would Whedon hope to achieve with a second Buffy feature? ”Not to make a big, crappy, two-hour episode of television,” he cracks.

Buffy‘s TV cast seem ready for their big-screen close-ups, however. Sarah Michelle Gellar showed off her ample talents in Scream 2 and I Know What You Did Last Summer; Seth Green (Oz) stole scenes in the recent teen comedy Can’t Hardly Wait; and Alyson Hannigan (Willow) appears in two upcoming films, Dead Man on Campus and East Great Falls High. Nicholas Brendon is pumped by the prospect of freeing his character from network censors: ”I would love for Xander to say some sort of expletive,” he confesses. ”He could also be fully nude frontally, and I’m very excited about that.”

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