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'The Beaver' goes back into the woods

February 7, 2011 |  6:00 pm

Beaver
What a strange, furry situation. After finally landing a release date, "The Beaver" has been pushed back.

Nearly two months ago, Summit Entertainment set March 23 as the limited-release date for the Jodie Foster-Mel Gibson drama, with a wide release to follow on April 8.

But the studio said Monday it was moving back the release date for the movie, in which Gibson plays a man with depression, by about six weeks. The film will now come out on May 6 in limited release and expand on May 20, a date that also happens to mark the opening of Johnny Depp's "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides." After the U.S. opening, it will roll out internationally.

The film will keep its world premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival next month, festival organizers said.

After several stops and starts in development, the independent film's fate was thrown into question last summer when recordings surfaced apparently of Gibson making abusive phone calls to ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva. Summit decided not to release the movie, which was completed, in the fall and waited until nearly the end of the year before announcing the March-April rollout. The movie then played for select media in Los Angeles and New York.

When Summit did announce a release date two months ago, questions arose about whether Gibson's public image would have recovered sufficiently by the time the movie hit theaters to allow for promotion of a film in which he stars; it also raised the issue of how much promotion he could or would do himself. A Summit spokesman confirmed the date change but declined to comment further.

The new date allows for more dust to settle on the Gibson affair -- and according to one person familiar with the studio's plans who asked not to be identified, might allow more buzz to build out of SXSW. But  it also pushes the movie into a period crowded with films that appeal to broad audiences. In addition to "Pirates," the superhero movie "Thor" (May 6) the female-oriented comedy "Bridesmaids (May 13), the male buddy-comedy "The Hangover 2" (May 26) as well as the art-house title "The Tree of Life" (May 27) all come out in that month.

There's also another furry creature making a play for audience affections when "Kung Fu Panda 2" comes out on May 26. Yes, it's all a bit of a zoo.

-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Mel Gibson in "The Beaver." Credit: Summit Entertainment

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