The co-writer and producer of last summer's X Files: I Want to Believe has a theory about why the film flopped with $21 million — one you might expect from someone who writes about aliens, but which surprises nevertheless.
In short, says Frank Spotnitz: It was The Dark Knight's fault. Warners' blockbuster, with all its brooding and scares simply claimed too much of the market on gothic fanboy melancholy for X-Files to compete a week after TDK first hijacked the box office. One one hand, it's not the most outlandish claim; few films escaped the Batman Revolution without at least a flesh wound (even Mamma Mia!, which Spotnitz cites among the season's most resilient counter-programming). Yet on the other, we can't help but feel a little embarrassed for a guy this delusional about his 15-year-old pop-cult franchise:
According to Spotnitz, I Want to Believe should have been a hit, based on its quality and on its genre as a scary movie. "Blockbusters, comedies, horror, scary films, these are always going to have a place in the theatre," Spotnitz tells Sun Media.
"Our theatrical performance this past summer notwithstanding, I think The X-Files is still a natural for theatrical release. We just opened the wrong week. The week after The Dark Knight, I think, was just not the right week for us. [...] We were a little dark scary movie coming in the fumes, in the exhaust, of this mammoth machine that was The Dark Knight. And I don't think we had a chance!"
They also didn't have the late Heath Ledger, IMAX, three years between films (as opposed to 10 years, with the previous X-Files film earning $80 million), virtually unanimous critical praise or a Momzo the Clown scandal. As Spotnitz almost certainly knows, it takes a village to make a hit. Literally — just ask the leaders of Batman, Turkey. Come to think of it, we hear they might be looking for co-plaintiffs against Warner Bros. if you think a class-action suit is worth a shot. Think it over.