Weekend Forecast for July 25-27, 2008
By Reagen Sulewski
July 25, 2008

When MMORPGs go live and get out of hand.

The Dark Knight's monstrous opening weekend hasn't rendered all other movies redundant just yet, although it kind of feels like it. Movies still continue to be released and exhibited other than Batman's latest, with two more out this week for some unknown reason. Why even try?

In 1998, the concept of an active TV series continuing its season on the big screen was a bit of a novelty. Come to think of it, it still is, but The X-Files: Fight the Future was the first film to really seriously try this model out. Opening to an at-the-time-impressive $30 million, it seemed to open up a world of crossover potential for TV series, but weak reviews and an extraordinary frontloaded box office pattern kind of shut the door on that. It limped home to $83 million and sort of killed off its series – it did last for four more seasons (including that Season 9 that never happened. Never. Happened) but the balloon had been popped.

Now, six years after the official end of the paranormal adventures of FBI agents Mulder and Scully, it's back with The X-Files: I Want to Believe. Staying away (wisely) from the mythology of what was one of the densest series to hit network TV since Twin Peaks, this film follows more in the vein of the monster-of-the-week episodes, though as befitting the series, details are guarded closer than the Caramilk secret. My way out on a limb guess: it's something to do with aliens (the Caramilk thing, too).

The big question is how many fans of The X-Files are actually left after all these years, and whether they can be bothered to come out for a new movie. I think there's still a strong nostalgia factor out there, especially since we're seeing David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson reuniting with the promise of romantic sparks for all the ‘shippers out there.

The problem is, with that secrecy and with no existing TV support to drive hype, it's got to sink or swim on how good the film looks, and honestly, it's not that interesting looking. Other than people who are still burning a candle under their shrine of series creator Chris Carter, support for this is going to be next to nil. That doesn't mean that it can't still translate into a solid opening weekend, but I'll be surprised if it's more than that. Look for about $45 million this weekend.

If I didn't know better, I'd say Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell were having a contest to see which of them can inspire the greatest despair among movie critics over the tastes of the general public. Sandler threw down strongly with You Don't Mess With the Zohan, but Will Ferrell clearly wasn't going to take the release and subsequent popularity of such crap lying down. Hence, Step Brothers, starring himself and John C. Reilly (reuniting the Talladega Nights duo), which seeks to combine stupidity and popularity in perhaps never before seen levels of cynicism.

Ferrell and Reilly star as overgrown manchildren who are forced under the same roof when their parents get married. Jealous about sharing their parents, they start out with open hostility, but eventually become fast friends based on their love of John Stamos. See, the joke is that they're both in their 40s and act like they're 11! Such hilarity.

Ferrell's actually started to show some signs of weakness, and has never been as bulletproof as Sandler, as Semi-Pro shows. Then again, Step Brothers isn't advertising itself by forcing us to look at Will Ferrell's crotch. A step up, I'd say. Watch for about $26 million this weekend.

Both these films pale in comparison to the second weekend total for The Dark Knight, which after setting just about every opening week record possible, is set to do the same thing for the second weekend. Starting with an astounding $158 million and becoming the all-time debut champ, it's since added two $20 million plus weekdays and holds the eight day record after just six days of release.

These numbers are so gaudy that it's led to speculation that The Dark Knight could challenge Titanic's $600 million mark for all-time domestic box office. That's a bit premature, but it's become more possible than for any other film since 1997. It's going to need a tremendous second weekend to do so, certainly greater than the current record for second weekends of $72 million (set by Shrek 2), but it's quite possible for it to do it, with the rather insane figures that it's been putting up during the week.

Based on these figures, I predict an $86 million second weekend, though I'm girding myself for a huge shock. With the incredible reception it's gotten, including Oscar buzz for not just Heath Ledger, but the picture itself, we can't entirely rule out a second $100 million weekend.

Mamma Mia! was a tremendous success as a counter-programmed film, opening to $27.8 million, for the highest ever opening for a musical (a somewhat hollow achievement, given the recent history of musicals, not to mention that it will be a short-lived one, with the juggernaut of High School Musical 3 on the way). One of the somewhat shocking things about the film was the criticism for incompetence in filmmaking, and singing, which you would think are two pretty basic things. But there I go thinking about ABBA fans having rational assessments of quality. Silly me. Regardless, I don't see this having huge legs or a lot in the way of repeat business. Its second weekend should come in around $16 million, which isn't bad, all things considered.

Superhero/comic films took a huge hit straight on the noggin last weekend, with Hancock falling over 50% and Hellboy II falling over 70%. There are only a few concrete examples of competition rearing its head, and we can now add two more. Expect a bit of bounce back, but the damage has been done. It's $8 million for Hancock and $5 million for Hellboy.