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Inside Move: ‘Gigli’ jinx: Bomb meets buzz

Sherak sez promotion difficult as 'real life met movie life'

HOLLYWOOD — Every so often, maybe two or three times a year, a black hole seems to open up and make a movie simply disappear.

It happened Aug. 1 to “Gigli.” Despite millions of Americans following every errand and wedding plan of its stars, Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, the pic opened to just $3.8 million.

It was an example of a disconnect between star wattage and box office draw of a magnitude not seen since Madonna and her helmer hubby, Guy Ritchie, managed to ring up just $598,645 with their collaboration “Swept Away.”

The key reason these films didn’t work was that most people didn’t think they were any good. But both films also were examples of a perfect storm — bad buzz piling on until the films were consumed.

With reviews of films popping up on Internet sites earlier and earlier in the filmmaking process, studios are frazzled about falling into the black hole.

Tom Sherak, a partner at Revolution producer “Gigli,” explains the process: “It comes from both professionals and non-professionals who go on the Internet, who start conversations about movies, both good and bad. If someone picks up on it, it gets a little bit bigger and before you know it, it permeates the media.”

He adds, “There’s not a lot you can do about it until you show the finished movie.”

Adds an exec from another company, “If ‘Gigli’ was good, people would have found it. Bad buzz is generally not going to kill good movies. Bad buzz kills bad movies.”

Bad movies and early bad buzz are not uncommon, however. The difference with these films is that the high-profile of their stars led to an even wider spread of negative press.

With the personal lives and relationship news of Lopez and Affleck the staple of grocery checkout lines and tabloid TV shows, Sherak says, it was difficult to break through to specifically promote “Gigli.”

“Real life met movie life,” Sherak says. “No matter what we did to sell ‘Gigli,’ we ran into stories both true and false about Jen and Ben.”

The net result: Producers and distributors are all the more alarmed when they see traces of bad behavior among their stars or when rumors start to poison the media and cyberspace. The filmmaking process thus grows ever more challenging.