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The Movie-Star Discount

That celebrity you love having down the hall? He’s paying less than you are.

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There he was in Us Weekly, handsome Orlando Bloom. His left hand cradled a folder, the word ATELIER—as in the 46-story condo tower on way-west 42nd Street—printed on the front. Paparazzi moment or genius product placement?

It’s hard to tell, as projects entering the market are now linked with boldface names almost as frequently as Lindsay Lohan is with partying. (Lohan herself, in fact, is said to have poked around Atelier.) It’s a way to generate buzz for a new building, especially in a crowded field. Leonardo DiCaprio has been connected with Hudson Blue, Naomi Campbell with the Cipriani Club Residences, Scarlett Johansson with the Chelsea Club on West 19th Street.

Sometimes, developers give celebrities price breaks in return for cachet, says publicist Stephen Larkin. He says discounts can reach 20 percent. If celebrities are hosting condo launch parties, or lending their creative vision to the project, they’re probably getting paid outright.

Other times, though, VIPs are unaware that their appearance at an open house or showroom can become fodder. Barbara Wagner, a publicist at Rubenstein Associates, says when James Gandolfini mistakenly walked into the sales office of 200 Chambers, she happily fed the item to the Post. “It’s a nice little plug for the development and the celebs,” she says. (Wagner won’t talk about actual deals, citing privacy concerns.)

Name-checking can backfire if the star is low-wattage, or isn’t actually buying (or designing) a piece of the project, says broker Christopher Mathieson, who’s working with nightlife queen Amy Sacco on the downtown development District. But the worst sin is being too obvious. Shortly after Bloom’s Atelier visit made the glossies, “Page Six” excoriated the “publicity stunt,” suggesting that the “press-hungry” Atelier was offering apartments gratis to famous types. Does name-dropping actually move units? “There may be a short-term boost, but it’s hard to prove if it affects sales in the long term,” explains appraiser Jonathan Miller. “People five years from now won’t be saying ‘Orlando Bloom loves the building, and that’s why my apartment’s so expensive.’”


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