With real conspiracies taking real lives around the world, this summer’s X-Files movie just didn’t capture the public imagination.

Screen image from 'The X-Files: I Want to Believe' 

The X-Files phenomenon, a huge cultural force in the 1990s, is officially over, it seems.

As E! Online reports, the theatrical film The X-Files: I Want to Believe, is an unmitigated box-office disaster:

In one of the sadder tales of the summer, The X-Files: I Want to Believe ($1.2 million, per Box Office Mojo) disappeared from the Top 10 after just a two-weekend stay. To date, the $35 million movie has failed to gross even $20 million overall, and managed to sell fewer tickets than Space Chimps ($1.7 million; $25.4 million).

During the Clinton era—when conspiracy theories ran riot—the show had a real connection to the American psyche. It had additional social resonance in the runup to the year 2000, when some religious folk were predicting world-changing events would occur because of divine intervention, and more earthbound doomsayers claimed that the U.S. economy was going to shut down because computers would not be able to handle the changeover to the year 2000.

The TV series and first movie were quite well written, acted, and produced, by and large, and Carter’s imaginative combination of supernatural horror, conspiracy film, and police procedural genres made for an interesting mix until the well began to run dry in the last few years. Even then, however, there were some good episodes among the dross.

Today, however, when we face real conspiracies such as 9/11 and the continuing Islam-based carnage in Iraq and in Europe, it seems the fanciful stuff of the X-Files no longer speaks to people. Now we have to believe in horrors we really don’t Want to Believe.

The X-Files was a good program while it lasted, but it seems the zeitgeist has moved on to other haunts. Until X-Files creator Cris Carter finds a way to connect the concept with current realities, I suspect the franchise will remain buried.