Why is X-Files a commercial failure?

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Why is X-Files a commercial failure?

Post by Vin Ghostal » Wed Aug 06, 2008 1:54 pm

I never watched the show, nor have I seen either movie, so I'm not personally invested in the franchise's success or failure, but why do you people think X-Files has tanked so viciously at the box office? Yes, it's been years since the show ended, but Fox clearly believed a strong market existed for the film, only for it to meet a feeble $10M U.S. opening. Why? Is this the end for X-Files? Will what's-his-name that plays the guy have to go back to doing Burger King commercials?
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Post by Halfshell » Wed Aug 06, 2008 2:04 pm

Rough guess is that most people who remember the show are aware that it ran for a load of years after they stopped watching, and can't be arsed to catch-up before going to see it?

The series mythology is bogged down beyond belief, and just awareness of that might put people off. Especially after the last cinematic outing. The basic format of bobbins like Star Trek means they're less likely to encounter the problem.

Fan word-of-mouth that it's crap may have helped dent its performance, too.

Though, going solely off the trailers, it comes across as just another one of those dodgy supernatural thrillers that seem to be everywhere we turn nowadays. Albeit with a couple of classic 90s TV characters in. If it hadn't had The X-Files name tagged on it, I genuinely never would have bothered with it.

Be interested to see Spengler's thoughts on the general subject.

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Post by Cliffjumper » Wed Aug 06, 2008 2:31 pm

Halfshell wrote:Rough guess is that most people who remember the show are aware that it ran for a load of years after they stopped watching, and can't be arsed to catch-up before going to see it?
More or less it for me... I (and a lot of the people who watched it at the time that I knew) never took X-Files super-seriously - it was good, standalone stuff, and you'd all talk about the beastie or whatever the next day in school. You'd love watching it, but you wouldn't go to insanse lengths not to miss one. So when the subplots started to get a bit more hefty, and they moved away from "Mulder and Scully investigate X-File #44 this week", a lot of people lost interest. I have no interest in the film because I have no idea what's happened in it for years - my interest at the time was so casual I couldn't even tell you what series I watched. I don't recognise hardly any of the character names mentioned in the other thread on the film - either because they came afterwards, or because I didn't care at the time and never noticed them.

Plus at its' peak it was a trend thing - it wasn't just X-Files, it was people fancying Duchovny and Anderson, and the whole thing about your peers all having seen it, and so on - and those things don't usually last too well (anyone remember Lost?).

It'd be a bit like basing the TF movie as following on from Rebirth or G2 - half the target market moved on long ago.

I can see, a decade or so down the line, a remake of something like Tooms with recast leads being more of a hit... In a way, it's too soon as well as the other factors - the sliding popularity of the show killed off a lot of interest, and it's not really long enough ago for much nostalgia to build... it's still "recent TV show that jumped the shark and got cancelled, the first two years were much better" rather than "classic old TV that deserves a revival" to most punters, I'd guess.

It was also never as much fun as Supernatural is, sorry :(

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Post by Ackula » Wed Aug 06, 2008 3:00 pm

Cliffjumper wrote:More or less it for me... I (and a lot of the people who watched it at the time that I knew) never took X-Files super-seriously - it was good, standalone stuff, and you'd all talk about the beastie or whatever the next day in school. You'd love watching it, but you wouldn't go to insanse lengths not to miss one. So when the subplots started to get a bit more hefty, and they moved away from "Mulder and Scully investigate X-File #44 this week", a lot of people lost interest. I have no interest in the film because I have no idea what's happened in it for years - my interest at the time was so casual I couldn't even tell you what series I watched. I don't recognise hardly any of the character names mentioned in the other thread on the film - either because they came afterwards, or because I didn't care at the time and never noticed them.
Exactly what he said. I have no clue what the hell happened after Mulder left in the TV show, and even when I did used to watch it I didn't keep up with it on a weekly "never miss an episode" basis. Really the only shows I've ever kept up with that closely would have been Buffy back in the day, and the new series Doctor Who/Torchwood stuff now.
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Post by AndyTurnbull » Wed Aug 06, 2008 3:05 pm

Because the show disappeared up it's own arse around season 3. The first season was pretty strong throughout but got weaker and weaker as it became blatantly obvious they were going to string it out as long as possible (obviously the makers of Lost were taking notes).

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Post by Halfshell » Wed Aug 06, 2008 3:06 pm

Cliffjumper wrote:It was also never as much fun as Supernatural is, sorry :(
This is another point. Whilst I've never watched Supernatural, in many ways The X-Files has been completely replaced. There's investigative ensemble TV shows everywhere (CSI, CSI NY, CSI Panto, Bones, Numb3rs, House), and "spooky" films everywhere you look (quite probably a result of the X-Files itself in a way). Basically, from pretty much any perspective, the big question is "did we need a new feature-length episode of The X-Files?".

Can't help but think the answer's a big fat no.

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Post by Cliffjumper » Wed Aug 06, 2008 3:24 pm

Aye, that's it's pretty ordinary by today's standards is probably a killer. You could argue that it's the original, but that doesn't mean it's still the best. It's the old argument - why should people go out and pay money for something they see on TV? Theatrical films for current or fairly recent TV series only really work when you can turn up the pyrotechnics (the Star Trek ones, for example, work for being a solid-gold guarantee of big budget action which is rarely see in the TV version - and also for usually having a very simple set-up with little actual plot directly carried over from the telly). How was X-Files ever likely to deliver anything other than the same old fare as usual? Format's not geared up for it. Even a few revelations would only be fan-orientated... A lot of people watched it for the weird aliens and other X-Files, and Mulder & Scully were just a pretty, slightly interesting pair of people who were a device for making a TV show about it... I don't really follow any of the current 'tec shows (only Bones from time to time, Sar's a fan), but I get the impression that their success is due to this two-tier level of interest - you can watch it for the character development and minor ongoing plot lines, but you can also enjoy them just for that week's murder. I mean, Sar watches Bones for both, but if the hook's good enough I'll watch the odd one or two because the central thrust is how a body ended up in a club wall or whatever, and I don't need to remember what Character A's father did three years ago to get that.

The other problem is there's nothing most people care particularly for being resolved - I've seen neither, but I hear from people who have that the main plus for Serenity is that Firefly was a sleeper hit that basically demanded a sequel - people were genuinely interested in seeing more. I dunno, are that many people interested in seeing what exactly Mulder and Scully are up to now?

To my mind, though, the overriding factor is that the film came out after people had clearly demonstrated they'd had enough of the TV show. To be honest (and I don't keep a finger on the pulse, this is one person who doesn't watch much TV or hardly any films made since about 1996) that they were even making a new film came as a bit of a "Wha....?". I mean, aside from dyed-in-the-wool fans, have you heard anyone recently say "You know what they should bring back? The X-Files".

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Post by Clogs » Wed Aug 06, 2008 3:32 pm

There's been too long a gap between the TV show ending and the film. And, like Andy says, it had failed to grip the general viewer well before the 'end'.

*shrugs*
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Post by Jetfire » Wed Aug 06, 2008 3:40 pm

To be honest nobody wanted to see an X-Files film. I mean unlike Transformers X-Files didn't have a massive fanbase who kept being fans for years afterwards.

The success of the show was all about interesting investigations by two quirky FBI agents. After series 2 in my opinion the main continuing story (alien cover-ups) very quickly ran out of steam because it couldn't by it's nature solve the alien mystery and keep going so it got weighed down by it's success and kept repeating it's increasingly dull main plot strand.

I don't think I watched it regularly after series 3 and didn't ever watch it again after series 4. I was aware that Mulder left but after that I was stunned to hear it ran for 9 years.

If X-files was say a 4 season TV series than it would have been remembered as a stunning peice of of original TV. It didn't and pushed away the general public interested and smothered the very concept that made it interesting in the first place.
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Post by Halfshell » Wed Aug 06, 2008 3:41 pm

It's a shame really, some of the best stuff's in the last two seasons. Having an entirely new cast helped...
Cliffjumper wrote:The other problem is there's nothing most people care particularly for being resolved - I've seen neither, but I hear from people who have that the main plus for Serenity is that Firefly was a sleeper hit that basically demanded a sequel - people were genuinely interested in seeing more.
Mmm. It also had the benefit of still being new when it was cancelled, so the big mysteries (what's the deal with River? what's a Reaver? who's Book really?) were still young and undeveloped, so could be transplanted straight into a film without any past plot-twists bogging down the story. They could be incorporated in as straightforward a manner as just re-asking the question.

Whereas the big X-Files mytharc would take about three hours to explain even before picking up on it for continuation.
To be honest (and I don't keep a finger on the pulse, this is one person who doesn't watch much TV or hardly any films made since about 1996) that they were even making a new film came as a bit of a "Wha....?". I mean, aside from dyed-in-the-wool fans, have you heard anyone recently say "You know what they should bring back? The X-Files".
It's one of those things that's been batted about since the series closed, usually mentioned in the same breath as the Red Dwarf movie that they've been making "next year" since that finished. And taken as seriously. Up until I actually saw posters and trailers, I didn't believe a word of it.

It's like they routinely trot out the whole "Ripper" or "Spike tv-movie" rumour. It's one of those things that "they'd like to maybe do at some point one day if everything clicks", but you never expect it to actually happen.

In this instance, it actually happened... and nobody cared.
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Post by Cliffjumper » Wed Aug 06, 2008 4:06 pm

The Red Dwarf film, were it to ever happen, would be a complete failure I think... it's another one of those things that mixed small hardcore fanbase and large fickle casual fanbase - the latter watching for the jokes rather than, say, Lister returning to Earth or the ultimate future of mankind in much the same way people watched X-Files for flesh-eating viruses rather than internal FBI machinations.

Plus, well, Red Dwarf hasn't aged well... I still watch it a lot, but much of the appeal is nostalgia... plus it would be incredibly difficult to recreate the sort of formula and feel successfully. The RD movie is one of those ones you know will never happen because if that many people wanted it, there's no reason why it wouldn't have happened by now - it's not like anyone from the show is insanely busy on bigger and better things, is it?

Funnily enough, and while I like it a lot, I think Buffy would have the same stony reception were the same thing to happen - it's too much of one time not that long ago...

I think what Jets is saying about the X-Files being permanently open-ended is important as well - anyone remembering the series in its' pomp will know it isn't going to involve the dynamic duo kicking open a warehouse and finding the Roswell saucer or anything... It's just going to be another TV episode to most people, and it's on repeats or DVD for anyone interested...

It's a bit of a Catch-22... if they'd have junked all the old sub-plots and just set Mulder and Scully up in some sort of awesomely interesting case, the fans would have been up in arms, and word of mouth would suffer (it always seems to for bad films based on stuff - unfaithful stuff really does often do much worse financially that faithful stuff in general).

Also, the important (and different) thing with Transformers is that the thing never really, really went away - there was some very careful market research going into the thing showing that there was a wide demographic voting for the thing with their wallets (Alternators, teen-and-up orientated comic books, etc.).

TV series with the sort of appeal to do something like this are few and far between... you either need the thing to be absolutely colossal (Star Trek - which was cancelled, and then had ten years of sleeper success, and like it or not is a cultural phenomenon) or strike when the iron's hot (Sex and the City

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Post by Halfshell » Wed Aug 06, 2008 4:36 pm

Cliffjumper wrote:it's not like anyone from the show is insanely busy on bigger and better things, is it?
Scrapheap Ch-- wait, I see your point.
if they'd have junked all the old sub-plots and just set Mulder and Scully up in some sort of awesomely interesting case
Thing is, this is what they've essentially tried to do. Problem is, they forgot to make it actually awesome. Or interesting. It's just... well, it's on a par with one of the sillier mediocre stand-alone episodes. But twice as long and without any advert breaks where you can go and get a cuppa.

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Post by DrSpengler » Wed Aug 06, 2008 4:45 pm

The X-Files was a show that I kinda just lost interest in after maybe season 3 or 4 (the thing went on for, what, 10 years?). I kept up with it in a summarized form via friends who still gave a damn and would enlighten me on the weekly happenings every Monday.

The X-Files 2 just always struck me as a "why bother". Most fans felt alienated by the last couple seasons where they ditched Moulder and replaced him with T-1000. The show ended on a low-note, with fans and casual viewers alike not really giving a shit anymore.

That was six years ago.

By now, the more fickle fans had already moved on to newer things, leaving only the most diehard clingers willing to blow $10 bucks on a ticket. Failure was pretty much a self-fulfilling prophecy. Why they didn't just go for a TV special is beyond me. That would have been a much safer route and likely would have been guaranteed better marketing by Fox then what the film got (I've still yet to see a single TV spot for it and I never once saw a trailer before any of the movies I've gone to see this Summer).

On another note, it's rated PG-13 and what teenager is going to go see this movie? I mean, let's say they were 10 in 2002 and they're 16 now: I'd be surprised if they even remember the X-Files, let alone have enough interest to go see a movie. It was probably on after their bedtime, anyway.

It all just reeks of pointlessness. Who in the general public would want to go see a movie of a TV series that got canceled half a decade ago and also requires you to watch 10 seasons of backstory to be in the know?

This is why you don't market a film solely to a slim demographic of diehard fanboys. Because even if every single one of them went to see the movie, there still wouldn't be enough to make it a financial success. Movies are marketed to the "general movie-going public" for a reason.

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Post by Rossum » Wed Aug 06, 2008 4:48 pm

Has anyone heard of a real reason for the movie being made? The interviews with Duchovny and Anderson are fairly evasive in an "I'm just doing this for the paycheck" kind of way, so I'm wondering who or what was actually the driving force here?

All the reasons for it tanking have pretty much been covered, but there's also the fact that there was little to no advertisement for the movie, as far as I can tell. Regardless of how good or bad the movie is, the age of the show + no advertising pretty much guaranteed that no one would be rushing to see it.

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Post by Halfshell » Wed Aug 06, 2008 4:51 pm

Spengs FTW.
DrSpengler wrote:This is why you don't market a film solely to a slim demographic of diehard fanboys.
Incidentally, the exact reason that Serenity was called Serenity, rather than Firefly: The Movie.
Because even if every single one of them went to see the movie, there still wouldn't be enough to make it a financial success.
Though sadly this is still what happened. Though it did succeed in bringing it to a few new people.

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Post by RID Scourge » Wed Aug 06, 2008 4:59 pm

Hmmm . . . I actually loved it in middle school, but I can't remember where it exactly jumped the shark for me. It was either when Scully was abducted for a few months (I liked the solo Mulder Eps quite a bit, but the only memorable one was when he hooked up with the vampire, and that might only be because I thought she was hot), or it was when Scully came back.

Funny thing being that I definitely thought Gillian Anderson was hot, but never really missed her character per se.

By the first movie I was still watching, but not as emphatically and I remember thinking it was cool that it fix exactly between the two seasons that bordered its summer release. I even grabbed a Mulder and Scully action figure.

After a while I stopped watching. I watched "Mulder's last episode evar," and the episode where he came back, but I was out of the loop by the time either aired. Missed the last episode but never bothered to actually track it down.

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Post by inflatable dalek » Wed Aug 06, 2008 6:07 pm

It's worth noting that whilst it's not a hit by any stretch the low budget (30 million, about the catering bill on Dark Knight) means the film is going to make a decent profit once full worldwide gross is taken in, plus DVD sales (which I suspect will be a bit healthier) and so on. There's more chance of a X-Files 3 that a Serentiy 2, especially when you factor in that Fox, unlike Universal in that case, will have also benefited from any boost is sales of the TV DVD's. I wouldn't be surprised if it's a straight to DVD thing though.

The big mistake really was releasing it as a Summer blockbuster, it isn't. A circa Halloween release would have done a lot better (but wouldn't have made it a better film). I actually think it might have been better served if they had gone down the mythology route. A good script could have parred it down for new viewers (aliens are here, they run the Government, they're about to do a full scale invasion) and been a bit bigger and more of the "Bigger event than you'd get on the box" thing a film spun off from a TV show needs to be.

A big problem for any SF show becoming a film now days is that effects have come on so far television is pretty much on a par with film visually (though film can still do longer and more sustained shots). The original series Trek films aren't just better looking than the 60's show, they're more impressive than any contemporary TV. But why bother seeing Star Trek Nemesis at the cinema when you can watch Enterprise for free on TV and it looks just as good?

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Post by Cliffjumper » Wed Aug 06, 2008 6:20 pm

inflatable dalek wrote:It's worth noting that whilst it's not a hit by any stretch the low budget (30 million, about the catering bill on Dark Knight) means the film is going to make a decent profit once full worldwide gross is taken in, plus DVD sales (which I suspect will be a bit healthier) and so on.
They hope... A US $10m opening week is not good, considering the drop for most films and the huge chunk of cinema revenue the US will represent. If it makes a profit of $10-20m after all that, the studio attitude will be "Phew, got away with that, won't do that again" - it's a lot of hassle to go through for a relatively small gain (especially as the figures for this one could reflect a lot of people who watched up to Season 3, figured it was roughly the same set-up and didn't like and won't see another one) which won't be guaranteed in future. If DVD sales are super-healthy, there might be a straight to release, but the budget would be sliced accordingly, and they might have trouble signing up the stars...

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Post by Halfshell » Wed Aug 06, 2008 6:41 pm

Cliffjumper wrote:but the budget would be sliced accordingly, and they might have trouble signing up the stars...
They could always compensate by replacing them with actors, as per the last couple of seasons...

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Post by Jetfire » Wed Aug 06, 2008 8:44 pm

One other factor is that the Trailer seemed to focus on Billy Connelly more than Muklder and Scully or the plot.

I mean surely casual fans of the series won't be enticed by the focus on a comedian and Connelly fans won't want to see Connelly not being funny. Oh wait! That hasn't stoped them paying to see him before.
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