By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated April 28, 2003 01:00 AM

Director Kevin Smith’s “Jersey Girl” — starring couple of the moment Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez — isn’t due to open until November, and, so far, test audiences like what they see, reports The New York Times.

But that reaction can’t allay the fears of the filmmaker and the studio that, come fall, the public may be fed up with the ultra-high profile Ben and Jen (or as Smith calls them, “Bennifer”).

At the very least, the filmmakers worry, audiences may just shrug off the movie, the paper reports. After all, why should anyone pay to see the couple on a movie screen when Lopez, 32, and Affleck, 30, are available every night for free on “Access Hollywood”?

When “Jersey Girl” was being cast, Affleck had just finished the gangster comedy “Gigli” opposite J.Lo, and it was the leading man who suggested her to play opposite him “Jersey Girl,” Smith, 32, tells The Times.

“Then all of a sudden it turned out they were a couple and I was, ‘Ah, no wonder he wanted to work with her again,’ ” Smith recalls, laughing. “Suddenly his suggestion didn’t seem so altruistic.”

The Times notes that there are jitters over at Sony and Revolution, the production companies behind the $54 million “Gigli,” due to open in August. But this movie’s problems apparently have less to do with its stars than with the movie itself.

Recent buzz about “Gigli” has grown nasty, says the paper, after an Ain’t-It-Cool News film critic sneaked into a test screening and posted an online review calling the movie “unreleasable,” and comparing it unfavorably to the embarrassing dud “Showgirls.”

This was followed by a New York Post “Page Six” item that the movie’s director, Martin Brest (“Beverly Hills Cop,” “Meet Joe Black”), and its producer, Joe Roth, nearly came to fisticuffs in the preview theater after the lights went up.

A Revolution Studios spokeswoman denied the Post item, although she did admit that tempers flared, The Times reports.