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What does 'The Beaver's' performance say about Mel Gibson's popularity?

May 9, 2011 |  7:30 am


Critics were mixed on Mel Gibson's "The Beaver" at the start of the weekend — some found it a touching story of mental disassociation; others an ill-fitting mix of the quirky and the dour. Lovers and haters agreed, however, that they sometimes found it difficult to separate the star's on-screen issues from his real-life ones.

As it turns out, viewers had the same problem — that is, if they even bothered to see the film.

Gibson's turn as a depressed toy executive who turns to a puppet for help this weekend took in a dismal $104,000 on 22 screens, a per-screen average of under $5,000. To put that in lay terms, that means that in the markets the Jodie Foster film opened, very few people came out to see it To put that in other lay terms, the average was lower than that for the recent opening of "Atlas Shrugged," a movie so unpopular it prompted its producer to contemplate retirement.(For those who might wonder if the figures are misleading because "The Beaver" opened in only a limited number of theaters, the per-screen metric accounts for that; it's essentially a measure of a movie's box-office power adjusted for the size of its release.)

On Sunday, studio Summit was, interestingly, pointing the finger at its film more than its star. Domestic-distribution president Richie Fay told my colleague Amy Kaufman that he didn't think the results were "as much a repudiation of Mel and his personal life as it is about a film with difficult subject matter” and suggested that a planned expansion later in the month may be more limited than previously thought. “As it turns out, I think the film is more of an art-house specialty kind of movie than a broader commercial film,” he said.

"The Beaver" was no doubt a difficult script, a dark comedy-drama with a tweener tone. Which is why, despite its darling status among Hollywood insiders (the script was atop the industry-sanctioned Black List and Steve Carell was once attached to star), it struggled for years to get made.

But the niche-film argument is also exactly what proves Gibson's faded stock. A-list stars elevate art-house movies; they get us to see films we wouldn't have ordinarily seen, from Brad Pitt in "Babel" on down. A pre-Malibu, pre-Oksana Gibson would have increased the popularity of this movie, especially with a performance as well regarded as his was. The Gibson we have today didn't. It may have even dragged it down.

Gibson supporters might argue that mainstream America will go on to embrace "The Beaver" when it opens wider later this month. But the number of instances in which a film struck out with niche audiences and then went on to be a popular hit can be counted on one hand.  Fay's comments suggest that Summit isn't banking on that, either.

Contrarians will also posit that the film was hurt by the lack of promotion on the part of its star, who continues to remain out of sight after last summer's embarrassing alleged rants against Oksana Grigorieva — though the fact that he didn't believe this a good moment to come back into the public eye itself proves the popularity point. 

There are also those who'll say, as commenters on our sister Company Town blog already have, that this weekend was another case of the media hating on Mel. But it isn't the media that stopped millions of Americans from seeing his movie this weekend. (Some would also say a more commercial action film, the kind we're used to seeing Gibson in, would help, though he didn't exactly reel 'em in with "Edge of Darkness" — and that was before Oksana-gate.)

The Hollywood executives who don't want to work with Mel — agency honcho Ari Emanuel, to name one who's said so publicly — have been accused of unfairness and a lot worse. Commenters accused this blog of worse too when we said after the Oksana tapes came to light that we believed Gibson's mainstream career was severely damaged, or even over. Said commenters argued, with varying degrees of nuance, that this was a blinkered view and doesn't reflect the American moviegoer. It turns out the American moviegoer feels pretty much the same way.

It's likely that a well-coordinated prime-time apology and perhaps a directorial effort that doesn't require putting Gibson's face on a poster could be on the way in the not-too-distant future. That may or may not ingratiate Gibson with a broader public. But after this weekend, is there any evidence left to support the idea  that Gibson is a bankable movie star, or that he'll become one again any time soon?


Audiences reject Mel Gibson as The Beaver flops

The Hollywood wagons circle Mel Gibson

Movie Review: The Beaver

— Steven Zeitchik

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

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As a long time movie buff I have enjoyed many Gibson movies. Maverick, Tequila Sunrise, Mad Max et all, lethal Weapon et all and many others but would no longer pay a dime to see him. Someone as unremorseful for his bad behavious as he seems has not earned my support or interest.

Mel Gibson has a lot of talent. Unfortunately, he's also a misogynystic, homophobic, racist with radical religious leanings as evidenced by his recorded rants and by several, well reported on, drunken encounters with the police. I, as a moviegoer, find it exceedingly difficult to seperate him as a actor after all the issues have come to light. The fact that he has never publicly apologized, or even admitted any wrong doings, makes me wonder if he's sorry he said/did these things? Or only sorry they've come to light. If I ever see another one of his movies, it will be too soon.

this film worst than gigli???

I must say that I have not seen this film. I may see it in the future when it comes out on DVD, but as for on the Big Screen, no.

The reasons have nothing to do with the star. I didn't really follow his antics, and quite honestly I don't give a rats-behind on what stars do offscreen. (Well, ok, if they go on a murderous rampage in a school zone, then I'm definetely avoiding them. I have limits.)

But frankly as a member of the late 30's crowd, it just doesn't appeal to me. Period.

I may watch it if my cable died and someone left the DVD, but, thats about it.

Now, if Mel wants to do a movie where he is a slightly unstable cop, in a post-apocolyptic era where he turns into a rooster to help some chickens escape from a 1940's concentration camp style coop, then I'm ALL OVER THAT!

Mel Gibson should consider a career as the spokesperson for a campaign to encourage men to wear condoms with women who are clearly not their soul-mates.

Gibson aside, the fact that so many executives thought this idea was something the public would embrace is even more tragic. The basic plot sounds like a bad Sixties or Seventies sit-com that might have worked for a Robin Williams or Jim Carrey in their heyday, but not a "serious" actor. It's another example of why Hollywood is in trouble, the alternate to sequels and remakes being obviously dubiously commercial subjects. And, unfortunately, the industry needs commercial projects to survive.

Rick Mitchell
Film Editor/ Film Historian

You can be a convicted rapist and keep your acting career and friends in America but if you fight with your wife and criticise Israel...

Mel Gibson's career was over after the success of Passion of the Christ. Let's not kid ourselves.

Reason for not seeing this film. Mel Gibson. On principle I will not be seeing any of his films anymore. I refuse to support him since he has recently displayed his true colours as an arrogant racist. His apparent attitudes towards women and people of other races are what come to mind when I look at him now. Why would I want to watch him for the length of a movie and support his career with that on my mind? I wouldn't. Too bad Mel, that you turned out to be such a jerk.

Here's what I don't get. Why the heck should I care about what someone does in their personal life when the point of movies is to be someone other than who you are.

This is as ridiculous as me saying "I don't believe in homosexuality so I will never watch a movie with a gay actor." It's just nonsense.

This is back as little thug kids on YouTube who listen to rap music and rate it based on how many times that "artist" has been arrested or involved in killings, drug dealing, etc...

Its like saying because van gogh was messed in the head, you can't like his art. This is the lesson: you can appreciate the art, without appreciating the artist, because a lot of times, the art is enhanced by and is a reflection of their flaws or imperfections.

In a perfect world, movie goers would seperate an actors real world persona from his film persona but of course that's not the case in our non-perfect world. This film seemed a very poor choice of vehicles for Mel if he was looking to re-hab his carreer and make us forget his antics. As his agent I would have recommended a nice romantic comedy or a film with him cast as a dependable hard working family man. I've only seen snippets of Beaver but his performance seemed quite good.

I always was a fan of Mel . In fact I would recommend him as a husband/father /person . A actor who once was top at the box office in Hollywood is now sinking more and more , What has cause all this only Mel really knows but its a shame what Hollywood can do to any person .

Mel's performance looks great and I will be watching the movie. He's screwed no matter what he does - not apologise, everyone is all over him, apologise and everyone will be whining about him just trying to weasel back into their good graces.

Obviously this is not a mainstream movie and seems like a good stepping stone for getting back into acting if he so chooses. Fact is, Mel is old for a leading man in the crapfest that is now Hollywood. These are the kind of movies he should be doing and I look forward to more quirky performances as I find him talented.

Curious as to how this indicates the view of the American public when it opened in a couple of large cities in a total of 22 theaters. Nice narrow view but then I guess I shouldn't expect anything different from LA.

Homophobe, racist, etc... Well, Mel is also an Anglophobe to boot.
We have not seen this "Beaver" film yet (and probably never will) but just out of interest, is there any Brit-bashing in it? That seems to be his fort
I have deduced that Mel, ostensibly of British descent, albeit from Australia, is basically a self-loathing person. This would explain many of his irrational actions. Is he possibly Jewish also?
Hey- come out of that giant multi-faceted closet, Mel.

This movie blog is consistently readable, smart and balanced. But the slam against "Atlas Shrugged" here is petty and factually wobbly.

I won't defend the film - it's simply not very good. But using it as a measuring stick of unpopular movies is odd. The film's $3 million-plus haul isn't bad for a film with no stars, a microscopic marketing budget and a very limited number of screens. Plus, the film scored rather well with audiences according to respondents on several movie sites.

The Beaver looks very intriguing - the French movie trailer is great. I will be seeing the movie in the theater if it comes near me; if not I will see it on DVD. Like another poster, I am looking forward to watching Gibson (if he chooses to continue acting) turn to more quirky roles and smaller films. I think he still has a lot to offer as both an actor and a filmmaker. He's an incredible director and I would see anything with his name on it. Don't care about the personal stuff. Got enough of my own life problems to deal with and don't need to be judging anybody else.

"A-list stars elevate art-house movies" and you take Brad Pitt with Babel as an example ? Really ? Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu had already known success with his first movie (with no A-list hollywood stars at all !) but above all with his second movie "21 grams" moreover Babel had also Cate Blanchett.
The Beaver is Jodie Foster's movie, Foster a famous A-lister as well established as Mel Gibson , how telling her presence should have elevate this art-house...(by the way i love Jodie Foster, one of my favorite actress of all time and Little Man Tate is one of my childhood favorite movie)
The Beaver had a difficult script, with some flaws but also a very interesting subject, smart and unusual directing choices made by Foster and some great performances by the actors.
If Gibson had play in a commercial blockbuster, the box-office numbers would be different..moreover Mel (his personal troubles aside) is becoming older and at Hollywood that already stops to make him the movie star lead he was anymore.
Los Angeles Time, not everybody is a dumb audience, some of us know the difference between a fictional character and a real person.

I wish the same people that bag on Mel would do the same to Obammy. Funny an actor screws up and the fans will never forget.
A so called leader screws up and lies, but the stupid Americans will back them forever.
America how is it still running??????

I'm glad the movie flopped. I hate to see bad people prosper. Gibson revealed himself to be a classic abuser, filled with rage and hate. And there's no excuse for it. With his millions he could afford the world's best, most expensive therapist.

You'd think his millions would at least enable him to be happy. But he can think of nothing better to do than cheat on his wife, rage against minorities,beat and threaten to kill his girlfriend. Pathetic.

The amount of vitriolic ink that has been deliberately spilled in the effort to gratuitously villify and condemn Mel Gibson is truly unprecedented. While his role in The Beaver is certainly Oscar worthy, I suspect that the "politics of personal destruction" in Hollywood will ensure Gibson is never forgiven. With that said, kudos to Jodie Foster for having the temerity to stand by her longtime friend which is rare in the fickle confines of Tinseltown.

What Gord Bestwick posted. And Nasty Celt.

As for the "Anglophobe" comment from Percy Sludge, I know Brits were waiting for this day to exact their revenge for Braveheart and The Patriot. The truth is too bitter to swallow, so you have to wait for the messenger to be discredited. So sad.

Mel is the last one who should be complaining about vitriol. He wrote the book on it.

This is a movie. Get it, a movie. People wont see a movie because of some behavior off screen of one of the actors? Give me a break. How can anybody possibly know when a good actor is not acting when they are off screen? For that matter, does a good actor even know when they are not acting. Everybody is acting all the time.

It's interesting. When a politician and leader runs a muck in their personal lives, everybody says "it's none of our business what he does in his personal life". If an "actor" runs a muck in their personal life, the very same people have a melt down. From my vantage point looking down on everybody (actors, politicians and the general population) it seems to me that it has NOTHING to do with bad behavior, it has to do with who it is providing the bad behavior.
We can forgive a leader their indiscretions, lies and bad behavior but an actor? Oh no, never an actor. The human race is stupid as a whole

It is incredible to me that anyone would characterize death threats, arson threats, assault on a girlfriend, and vicious racial slurs as nothing more than 'personal indiscretions'. Making death threats over the phone is a CRIME.

Can you imagine what would happen to a politician caught making these insane rants? What if a politican were caught saying to his girlfriend: "you deserve to get raped by a pack of Ni****s...you deserve a bat to the side of your head...I will bury you in my rose garden, I'm capable of it...I will burn your house down."

That politician's career would be over in 5 minutes.

Eliza, you forgot about Mel's other immortal gems, including:

"Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world" (to arresting officer)

"I want to kill him...I want his intestines on a stick...I want to kill his dog" (about Jewish columnist Frank Rich)...

And what about the interview when he said his wife Robin was going to Hell because she didn't share his religious beliefs.
Nice, huh?

You're right, no politician would get away with saying even one of these quotes.

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