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'X-Files' Tops Weekend Box Office

News Corp.'s X-Files: Fight The Future led the box office parade over the weekend, taking in $31 million.

Perhaps most importantly for the company's 20th Century Fox unit, about 25 percent of the people who went to see the film weren't die-hard fans of the television show, according to Tom Sherak, chairman of 20th's domestic film division.

Sherak told the Associated Press the film, budgeted at $60 million, was "playing well across the board," attracting males and females of all age groups.

Citicorp Securities analyst Thomas Aust told CBS that News Corp. will make the most of its opportunities to increase the value of the X-Files franchise.

The television show premiered in 1994 and has attracted a devoted cult following. A number of conventions have been held around the country, and fan clubs have blossomed freely.

Aust said News is very good at promoting its brands and properties. "And they work it across their different distribution channels very nicely," Aust noted. "That's hard to do. Others try to do it. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they don't... But I think nobody does it better right now than News Corp./Fox."

Aust said a big box-office take for the movie will help the TV show, and vice versa. "They're going to watch for real opportunities to cross-advertise, in terms of those two mediums alone," he said. The film, which opened to the public Friday in U.S. theaters, is getting lukewarm reviews by film critics.

There will be numerous opportunities on "big-penetration" programs like Fox's Thursday and Saturday baseball games, Aust said, along with the various Fox cable networks: Fox News Channel, Fox Sports Net, FX, Fox Movies and the Fox Family Channel.

"And also with publishing, as well," said Aust, "with their interactive stuff - X-Files CDs and games."

Credit Lyonnais analyst Richard Read said 20th Century Fox figures to get hefty licensing fees for various pieces of memorabilia associated with the movie - posters, T-shirts, caps, and the like - and should grab 4 to 5 percent of the total sales gross for those items.

There would probably be a corresponding rise in sales for items connected with the TV show.

Written by David B. Wilkerson, CBS MarketWatch

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