NEW YORK – Where's Ben? Where's Jen? Not on the posters for their latest movies.
The images of Jennifer Lopez (search) and Ben Affleck (search) — whose on-and-off romance dominated the media for more than a year — are conspicuously missing in action from the print advertising for "Shall We Dance?" (search) and "Surviving Christmas," (search) which open within a week of each other next month.
In perhaps an unintended metaphor for Affleck's slumping career, the poster for the long-delayed "Surviving Christmas" (due Oct. 22), features an image of a man — we see only his hands and feet — crushed beneath a gift-wrapped box.
Even stranger is the one-sheet for "Shall We Dance?" (opening Oct. 15), which depicts Richard Gere (search) dancing solo in the rain — without a trace of J-Lo, who plays his sexy dance teacher.
"The 'we' in the title certainly suggests two people, but not showing Gere's partner, one of the most famous bodies in the world, seems weird," says Martin Grove, a marketing columnist for the Hollywood Reporter. "Perhaps budgets have gotten so tight at Miramax that they couldn't afford to show two people in the poster."
It's certainly unusual for a Hollywood studio to pay a star around $12 million — Ben and Jen's reported asking price — and not to use their pictures on the poster.
"This sort of thing is always a touchy issue," said a Hollywood marketing executive. "Both of these movies were in production before 'Gigli' made these stars somewhat notorious, and the failure of 'Jersey Girl,' in which they both also appeared, has definitely made the studios gun-shy about their box-office appeal.
"But that could change in a year or two down the road, when the studio wants to work with them again, so they have to tread carefully."
With Affleck, DreamWorks is hedging its bets by featuring Affleck prominently in the trailer for "Surviving Christmas."
Yet Lopez has far less screen time in the trailer for "Shall We Dance?" than Gere, and only slightly more than Susan Sarandon (search), who plays Gere's wife.
But then, the movie, which Miramax originally planned to release last month, is generating some lethal buzz.
"After a year of bad press and tabloid fatigue," wrote Entertainment Weekly, "J-Lo's derriere is on the line."
Miramax pooh-poohs the negativity and says a new poster with J-Lo's image will be turning up in theater lobbies shortly.
"We think Jennifer's great in the film," said Miramax spokesman Matthew Hiltzik. "She's prominently featured in the trailer, which reflects her important supporting role.
"And audiences will be able to see her in the film's poster by this weekend."
DreamWorks is also promising a new poster for "Surviving Christmas" showing Affleck, claiming the one currently in theaters is merely a teaser, or early version.