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'The Beaver' sluggish in limited release

May 09, 2011

It appears that Mel Gibson, after making well-publicized sexist and anti-Semitic comments, may be losing his clout with moviegoers. The actor's latest film, "The Beaver," was released in 22 theaters this weekend and flopped.

The film grossed $104,000 for a paltry per-theater average of $4,745, according to an estimate from distributor Summit Entertainment. The movie came out after Gibson's stock already had been badly damaged. His reputation, hurt by a drunken anti-Semitic rant in 2006, sank even lower last summer when recordings of telephone conversations surfaced of the actor making abusive remarks to ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva .

In Hollywood, it's likely that many will claim "The Beaver's" poor performance means Gibson's acting career is over. But Richie Fay, president of domestic distribution for Summit, said the film's weak debut had more to do with its limited appeal than Gibson's behavior.

"I don't think this is as much a repudiation of Mel and his personal life as it is about a film with difficult subject matter," he said. "It's not the type of role that people would gravitate to or expect him to be in."

In the film, which was directed by and costars Jodie Foster, Gibson plays a depressed man whose only solace comes in communicating with a beaver puppet. The movie has been received well on the festival circuit and has garnered some decent critical reviews.

Still, Summit struggled to choose a release date for the film, pushing its opening from March to May. The movie will expand to about 30 theaters next weekend. It had been slated to go into wide release on May 20, but Fay said the movie would most likely have a "limited art-house run."

"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 subject matter is a hard sell even though it's got a commercial actor in it like Mel Gibson. I don't know whether it's going to transcend that art-house audience."

— Amy Kaufman

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