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Marketplace Scratch Pad

Life, the movie

Scott Jagow Jul 28, 2009

The line between what is real and what is not is getting smudged like an autograph in the rain. Take, for example, an inspired high school graduation speech here in California a few weeks ago.

At the end of the speech, Hamilton High valedictorian Kenya Mejia professed her love for a fellow student. She said, “I love you, Jake Minor!” It turns out, says the Wall Street Journal, the movie studio Twentieth Century Fox paid her $1,800 to say this:

The goal of the plot, which included a marketing company called the Intelligence Group and at least one other contractor, was to create a “viral” buzz online for the romantic comedy “I Love You, Beth Cooper.” The movie opens with an unassuming valedictorian using his graduation speech to proclaim his feelings for the most popular girl in school. Fox and its consultants hatched the ruse to recreate the scene at a real high school before the film’s July 10 opening, say people familiar with the matter, in hopes of creating online chatter about the way the movie supposedly inspired copycats.

Fox also hired a company to videotape the speech and (of course) post it on YouTube. I don’t know how much all of this cost Fox, but the movie has bombed so far. It’s only brought in $13.4 million in three weeks. The school and the school board were pretty ticked off when they found out about the stunt, but the school says the girl’s diploma is safe. Plus, she learned a bit about how the real world works. Or should I say The Real World?

Kenya actually has a boyfriend already, and it’s not Jake Minor. Apparently, the boyfriend gave his okay to the plan. More from the Journal:

Ms. Mejia and Mr. Minor agree the episode didn’t spark a new romance. Nonetheless, he says that he — along with his girlfriend at the time — was taken by surprise when Ms. Mejia delivered her message.

“I had no idea that she liked me,” Mr. Minor says. “She’s pretty quiet.”

And off to MIT with $1,800.

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