So What Went Wrong with Jennifer's Body?
Aside from the relatively strong showing for Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, the past weekend comprised some of the stinkiest high-profile openings in recent memory. None were more aromatic than Jennifer's Body, which went from a highly anticipated horror comedy starring the Hottest Woman in the World™ to devastated studio also-ran in about a month flat. Its dearth of critical supporters (including A.O. Scott, Dana Stevens and yours truly) reflected its pathetic $6.8 million gross, even while the media interest from Toronto alone (not to mention its generally critic-proof genre creds) suggested something a little more bulletproof at the box office. How could it go so wrong? Let Movieline count the ways.
1. The distributor. 20th Century Fox's genre wing, Fox Atomic, had Jennifer's Body in the can by the time the mother ship shut it down last spring. Instead of offloading the film to Fox Searchlight, which nimbly maneuvered Diablo Cody's previous brainchild Juno to awards-season lucre in 2007, a decision was somehow reached to fill a gap in Big Fox's early fall slate with a quirky, gory, post-feminist horror romp starring Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried. Big mistake. You'd have to go back to The Devil Wears Prada to find an example of a Fox release that worked without a genuine male lead; you'd probably have to go back to Aliens to find a genre example of such that they pulled off successfully. In any case, it was a mismatch from the start, especially considering...
2. The marketing. Maybe I was looking in the wrong places, but I never saw a single TV spot, billboard, transit poster, lobby standee, or other promotional measure for Jennifer's Body anywhere in New York. I'm not sure how it went in Los Angeles or any of the other national markets where Body was playing on more than 2,700 screens, but for a film to command so much hype online yet be altogether hidden once people leave their desks seems like something of a lost opportunity. Particularly when people never seemed to know...
3. The release date. I was actually one of those people earlier this month, downplaying Body's poor tracking numbers in an argument with a peer who then reminded me, "But it opens Sept. 18!" That shut me up. On one hand, I appreciate Fox attempting to extract Body from the pre-Labor Day/post-New Year's genre ghetto. On the other, I don't think it's displaying too much of a lack of imagination to say that if this doesn't go in mid- to late-October, it doesn't go at all. Again, this is why studios leave specialty films to specialty distributors -- especially if you have one in-house (e.g. Warners/New Line's The Final Destination).
Pages: 1 2