Jennifer Aniston stuck in second tier with new flop

Tue Aug 24, 2010 5:29am EDT
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By Gregg Kilday and Kim Masters

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The moviegoing public's on-again, off-again love affair with Jennifer Aniston hit another troubled patch during the weekend as her latest comedy, "The Switch," opened to a dispiriting $8.4 million.

From the start, there was concern within the Aniston camp that the offbeat comedy, which also stars Jason Bateman as a surprise sperm donor, was a tricky sell. "Switch" was produced independently for about $19 million by Mandate and Bona Fide Prods. As filming began, Miramax picked up domestic rights for about $6 million. Then the movie nearly became an orphan when Disney decided to sell Miramax to an investment group headed by Ron Tutor.

Ultimately, Disney agreed to distribute the title for a fee through its Touchstone label. Sources claim that the studio promised the "Switch" team it would give the movie the same level of support that helped turn Sandra Bullock's romantic comedy "The Proposal" into a hit last summer but that Disney's ad buy ultimately fell short of that mark. There was even talk that Aniston confronted Disney marketing head M.T. Carney about the issue.

Neither Aniston's representatives nor Disney would comment on the situation. But a source close to the film said Aniston, who served as an executive producer with her producing partner Kristin Hahn, "was ferocious and tireless on behalf of the movie and is to be greatly admired for that."

If there was a disconnect between her and the studio, it probably came out of the fact that Disney, which inherited the film, didn't have the same sense of ownership in the project that drove CBS Films to lavish TV airtime on similarly themed Jennifer Lopez rom-com "The Back-up Plan" in April. And even with CBS' backing, "Plan" was no winner, opening to $12.2 million and grossing only $37.5 million domestically. Artificial insemination, it turns out, is the new box office poison.

In an odd way, though, Aniston's current box office troubles don't necessarily represent a setback.

Just as the tabloids have turned her personal life into an ongoing saga of triumph over heartbreak, she has overcome equally long odds in Hollywood, becoming the only member of the "Friends" ensemble to graduate to a full-time film career.

Although some in the business describe her as a second-tier movie star, she's reliably second-tier. As one producer explained: "She's probably still a giant television star. If she would do it, she could name her price. Her movies aren't very good, but they're not embarrassing. She's always pleasant, and she always looks kind of pretty. She's really well-liked in the town. She's a good friend, a supergood client, very hardworking."   Continued...

<p>Cast member Jennifer Aniston poses at the premiere of "The Switch" at the Arclight theatre in Hollywood, California August 16, 2010. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>