The news seems all bad for CBS Films’ Jennifer Lopez comedy The Back-Up Plan, which opens Friday. The entire movie leaked online, but judging by the film’s atrocious tracking numbers, one wonders if anyone will even bother to download it for free. Audience research data obtained by Vulture shows that while more than half the public is aware of The Back-Up Plan, it’s the first choice of less than 10 percent of moviegoers surveyed.
Translated into J.Lo-ese, that’s Gigli territory: Rival studio marketing chiefs are forecasting a total opening-weekend gross of between $4 million and $7 million. Not opening night, mind you: the whole opening weekend. Not only is this bad news for Lopez, but it would be the second nuclear bomb in a row dropped by Les Moonves’s fledgling CBS Films: Its first release, the Harrison Ford–Brendan Fraser medical drama Extraordinary Measures, made a grand total of just $14 million worldwide, the lowest gross of Ford’s entire career.
Working up audience interest in The Back-Up Plan has been problematic from the start, even as Moonves struggled to save it by quietly hiring on Terry Press, formerly head of DreamWorks’ marketing, as a consultant. She was called in after this disastrous Apatow-wannabe first ad aired during the Super Bowl:
A clearly incredulous marketing chief at a rival studio marveled, “A crunchy lesbian-themed drum circle where the joke was, ‘Hand me the mirror, I can see the baby’s crowning head!’? … This was just a disgusting image in the middle of the Super Bowl.” (Indeed, after watching this spot, one could walk away thinking that the titular backup plan might have been referring to abortion.) A source familiar with the project’s marketing tells us that the ad was actually designed to play down Lopez, whose star was dimming. “That’s insane,” says our insider, “because while it’s true there are certain people who really don’t love her as a movie star, no one was going to see this movie if they didn’t at least like Jennifer Lopez … You can either be ashamed of the fact that she’s in this movie, or you can fucking own it, and get everyone who ever loved or liked her to come out and see it.”
After Press arrived, new spots were cut, aimed to sell Plan as a Jennifer Lopez romantic comedy:
If only CBS Films’ backup plan had been Plan A from the start. This movie was never going to be another Maid in Manhattan, but maybe a better kickoff would have saved it from being Jersey Girl. (Article has been edited since original post)