October 02, 2009 at 04:00 AM EDT

Turns out, sometimes sex doesn’t sell. Look no further than Jennifer’s Body‘s deadly $6.8 million debut for proof that even the prospect of a Megan Fox — Amanda Seyfried pajama party can’t guarantee a stampede of male moviegoers. But what may have really pushed Jennifer into a box office dead-zone was, ironically, Fox’s love affair with the media. How could anything in the high school gorefest (written by EW columnist Diablo Cody), in which Fox plays a man-eating cheerleader, be as entertaining as the material the 23-year-old starlet serves up for free? (”Women hold the power,” Fox recently told Cosmo, ”because we have the vaginas.”) ”The audience was satiated,” says the president of marketing for a competing studio. ”Everything was about her fame as opposed to being about the fact that she made a cool scary movie.”

The sexy-beast persona also proved off-putting to women, without whom Jennifer, like any horror movie, didn’t stand a chance. ”That genre is driven by the female audience, and I don’t know that girls relate to her,” says the executive. ”Megan leads with pure, raw sexuality, and for girls it’s a turnoff.” By the time Fox hosted SNL on Sept. 26, Jennifer was so dead that the actress did the unthinkable: She didn’t even plug it.

Fox’s drawing power will be tested again with next summer’s Western Jonah Hex, aimed straight at her core: young guys. ”Megan Fox is viable because every guy I talk to says she’s f—in’ hot,” says a studio strategist. ”If I were cutting the Hex trailer I’d make sure she was in as much of it as possible — in compromising positions.”

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