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When overexposure kills

LOS ANGELES — LOS ANGELES -- In an industry where all publicity is said to be good publicity, the ubiquitousness of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez should have helped spark ticket sales for the couple's first movie together.

But Gigli had a disastrous $3.7 million opening weekend gross then went on to suffer an unprecedented 81.9 percent drop in business weekend before last. Many say an overdose of J. Lo and Ben coverage hurt the film's ticket sales even more than the savage reviews the picture received.

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Similarly, Demi Moore's unlikely romance with Ashton Kutcher overshadowed her comeback in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. "If anything, this summer has shown how overexposure can kill a movie," said Brandon Gray, editor of BoxOfficeMojo.com. "If people feel like they've seen the movie before it comes out because of the antics of the stars overshadowing their movie, they feel no real pressing need to pay $10 or more to see it in the theater."

Affleck and Lopez have certainly demonstrated that they can each sell movie tickets individually. But there has been a year of endless publicity surrounding their romance to the degree that even their going out to buy a pizza together garners paparazzi attention.

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In the days prior to the Aug. 1 opening of Gigli, the pair gave a lengthy joint interview to Dateline NBC, which aired over several nights, and on the syndicated Access Hollywood program.

"The number of times a day that a typical fan or consumer has to be bombarded by the image of their idols makes them less idols than next-door neighbors," said Martin Kaplan, associate dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at University of Southern California. "I think our appetite for our next-door neighbors has limits."

In addition to shows like Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood and Extra, intensifying things has been the magazine war that has broken out in the past year between People, US Weekly and In Touch magazines, as well as The Star tabloid.

The battle for readers has dramatically upped the ante in celebrity coverage with an endless appetite for the latest photographs and tidbits.

"I do think the rise of all of these celebrity magazines and the proliferation of outlets for gossip makes overexposure a danger," Kaplan said. "The stars profit a bit from being a bit mysterious and larger than life. If we really do know everything about them, it's not quite as thrilling to get a look at them on a big screen."


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