THE CHRONICLES OF A BOX OFFICE DISASTER
"Gigli" will easily go down as the most made fun of film in 2003, perhaps the most made fun of film of the 2000s decade, and maybe, one of the most made fun of films of all time.
Yet, I think a lot of people bashing this film are just bashing it because they heard Jay Leno make some "really great joke" about "that Bennifer movie that flopped." Nobody seems to really know the whole story behind this universal disaster of a film.
CHAPTER ONE: Production and The Pre-Release Hype
High voltage Hollywood couples taking their off-screen romances on screen usually results in a lot of hype, but not always financial success. (see: Shanghai Surprise, Proof of Life and The Experts)
In 2003, Jennifer Lopez (aka J.Lo) and Ben Affleck were the celebrity couple "everybody" was talking about. Or at least they were constantly hounded by tabloids and crap magazines like Us Weekly and People Magazine and being featured nightly on Entertainment Tonight.
Both stars were all over the media waves, and the film actually had quite a well established cast & crew outside of the Bennifer duo as well. Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Lainie Kazan were were all playing supporting roles in the film. Writing and directing the film was Martin Brest, who was a proven filmmaker after the 80s hit Beverly Hills Cop, the acclaimed Midnight Run and Scent of a Woman, which gained him two Academy Award nominations. The film was being shot by Paul Thomas Anderson's longtime cinematographer, Robert Elswit and musically scored by award winning composer John Powell.
Yet the film suffered from problems during production. Delayed shoots, a changed title (from the original title "Tough Love"), a reported near fistfight with producer Joe Roth and Martin Brest and having to re-work the ending of the film after poor audience reaction.
Yet Entertainment Weekly called "Gigli," the tale of the lowly thug who falls in love with a lesbian, one of the most anticipated films of the summer of 2003. Other media outlets began hyping up "Gigli." Yet the trailer and leaks from people who had already seen the film were both resulting in negative murmurs among the film-going public. Not to mention the incredible overdose of seeing Bennifer in every single magazine, newspaper and television program.
The $54 million dollar film was backed with a $20 million dollar marketing campaign and was slated to open on August 1st, 2003.
CHAPTER TWO: The Opening Weekend
"Gigli" screened for critics in the final days of July in 2003 and garnered up some of the worst reviews of the year. According to the Rotten Tomatoes film site (www.rottentomatoes.com) "Gigli" received 139 bad reviews from critics and only 10 positive reviews. And one of those positive reviews, by Fred Topel from About.com's movie page read like this:
"There were tons of worse movies this year. Maybe this is like comparing Saddam Hussein to Adolf Hitler, but Gigli isn't just the lesser of two evils, or three, or four."
Not to mention that Affleck and Lopez were the only people that could be deemed "celebrities" that showed up at the film's Hollywood premiere on July 28th, 2003. On August 1st, 2003, "Gigli" opened on at 2,215 theatres across America. Yet opening day receipts were pretty pitiful. $1,449,667 grossed, an average of $654 per theatre. The film was playing to houses only a quarter filled on its opening day.
By the end of the weekend, "Gigli" had only grossed about 3.7 million dollars and finished in 8th place at the box office that weekend. By the Sunday of its release, "Gigli" had already lost 25% of its opening day audience. It was beginning to look like one of the biggest film disasters of all time, yet Bennifer, Brest and the film's distributor Columbia Pictures (owned by Sony) hadn't seen the worst of it yet.
CHAPTER THREE: Opening Week and A "Record Breaking" Second Weekend
The film managed to gross only 5.1 million dollars after its first week in release. It saw its television advertisements get completely pulled, yet a deal had been made to keep it in all 2,215 theatres it opened in for at least two weeks after its release. After the two weeks, the option was to be made if it was expand its release, or lessen its release. The choice wasn’t a hard one.
And while at this point every single late night comedy show and every movie critic had made "Gigli" a punch line, and the WBCN radio station in Boston was giving out "I Survived Gigli" shirts at theatres for people who sat through the entire film, it would only go a step further by putting itself in box office history.
"Gigli" managed to gross $678,640 dollars its second weekend at the box office landing it in 18th place. Its 81.9% drop at the box office was the largest second weekend drop in Hollywood history (in 2005 it was topped by the Ashlee Simpson disaster Undiscovered).
CHAPTER FOUR: Twisting The Knife... Slowly
"Gigli" went on to break even more box office records. On its third weekend, it was only being shown in 73 theatres nationwide. The 2,142 theatre drop meant that it had lost an unprecedented 97.2% of the sites it was once playing in. Its third and final weekend saw it gross an incredibly pathetic $18,702 dollars and land in 63rd place. On August 17th, 2003, after a 17 day run in theatres, "Gigli" was pulled from the 73 theatres that were still playing it. Its final domestic gross came to $6,068,735, way short of its shooting budget and marketing costs.
In the United Kingdom, "Gigli" was pulled from the 73 screens it had opened on after only one week. It was averaging $300 per theatre. In Canada, the Toronto Globe ran the headline "Suddenly Gigli Got a Lot More Watchable," when major Canadian movie chain Famous Players announced that they would begin serving beer, wine and coolers in a majority of its theatres. The film managed to open, and fail, in 22 countries outside of the U.K, Canada and the United States. It made $1,178,667 overseas and ended up with a little over 7.2 million in its entire worldwide release.
CHAPTER FIVE: The Aftermath
Sony film units reported a 42 million dollar loss in the company's fiscal second quarter of 2003. They specified in a press release that 25% of the loss was due to "Gigli."
In January 2004, not only did Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez break up, but "Gigli" was nominated for nine Razzie Awards, which honor the worst in film for the previous year. On February 28, 2004, "Gigli" became the first film to "sweep" all five major categories at the Razzies. It took home Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Actor, Worst Actress, Worst Screen Couple and Worst Screenplay.
Perhaps filmmaker Kevin Smith had the biggest headache as a result of Gigli. His next film, "Jersey Girl", was originally supposed to be "the next Bennifer film," yet after "Gigli," huge changes were made. Jennifer Lopez was removed from all ads, a wedding scene with Ben & Jen was cut, the once secretive plot twist that J.Lo's character dies twelve minutes into the film became a marketing ploy. Not to mention Jennifer Lopez received four million dollars to appear in the movie in the first place. Quite a sum for what turned out to be a cameo.
"Jersey Girl" was not a success, though. While Kevin Smith has said he has no regrets about the film (which made 25 million against a 35 million budget), he had expected the Bennifer star power to give him his first #1 movie at the box office. During an appearance on The Tonight Show, he joked that "Jersey Girl" out grossed "Gigli" in its first weekend.
Since "Gigli," Martin Brest has been reluctant to begin a new project. As "Gigli" followed up Meet Joe Black, which was also written & directed by Brest and was met with box office failure. Ben Affleck has been cut from the cast of the 2005 release Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and has seen any ideas for a Daredevil sequel die a slow painful death. His next film, Surviving Christmas, a story about a lonely guy who rents himself a family for the holidays, sounds horrible. Jennifer Lopez is seemingly continuing to do the bad romantic comedys, bad action thrillers and bad music she's been known for.
And while its mostly been a punch line, "Gigli" did teach Hollywood many lessons. How the crafting of on-screen relationships from those linked off-screen is a risk that maybe isn't worth taking anymore. The fact that a follow up is never a "sure thing" until the predecessor is a success, and the basic fact that media poisoning doesn't always result in getting people's butts in seats if the movie being hyped doesn't have many redeeming values at all.