Box Office Byte

RAM-Box Office Byte

For Hollywood studios, the advent of social networking is a lot like the early days of nuclear energy: studios are learning to harness the power of Facebook and Twitter, but often become horribly irradiated, too.

The downside associated with youthful, smart-phone equipped moviegoers communicating instantaneously with all the friends in their networks began to emerge last year, when Universal's Sacha Baron Cohen comedy Bruno debuted to a strong $14.2 million Friday, then cratered 40 percent the following day.

Since then, a number of other studios have seen poor word-of-mouth - which used to at least take a full three-day weekend period to spread - disseminate almost instantaneously.

"You used to be able to get at least a weekend out of a bad movie, but not anymore," said one studio marketing president, speaking on the condition of anonymity. He watched his studio's own highly anticipated musical remake tank last fall when moviegoers started trashing it on the Facebook page set up by the studio specifically to market the film.

"You could see what was happening hour-by-hour at the box office," he said. "By noon, we had to take the [Facebook] page down. We hyped the shit out of that movie on Twitter and Facebook, and the moment it came out, that all turned on us."

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