‘Borat’ buzz befuddles

Cohen pic may follow in the footsteps of 'Snake'

Forget the blogs. How much are mainstream media outlets worth these days when it comes to promoting a movie?

Well ahead of its Nov. 3 release, 20th Century Fox’s “Borat” has become a sensation in some quarters. But weak tracking so far — two weeks out from its opening, the Sacha Baron Cohen satire is trailing the also-anemic audience interest ratings for “The Santa Clause 3” — has already raised concern that the pic will follow in the footsteps of “Snakes on a Plane” in failing to convert intense niche interest into a big box office grosses.

Bloggers came in for most of the criticism when analysts were looking to where to place “Plane” blame, but how about all the mainstream media outlets that lavished coverage on the creature feature?

Entertainment Weekly put snakes and Samuel L. Jackson on its cover (Borat had the mag’s cover last week) and TV shows ranging from NBC’s “Today Show” to Comedy Central’s “Daily Show” gave the pic tons more airtime than a typical film would warrant.

“Borat” is now getting similar treatment, aided by a continuing storyline of the Kazakh government’s awkward campaign to distance the nation from the pic and stunts by Cohen, such as a trip to the White House to invite President George W. Bush to screen the film.

The L.A. Times has already started rolling packages on the pic usually reserved for titles like “Star Wars” or “Spider-Man.”

Like “Snakes,” all the free media for “Borat” will likely inflate the grosses for what would otherwise be a cult film. But it casts into doubt whether on their own, the news media — like the blogs — have the ability to push a pic from obscurity to blockbuster status.

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