Mel Gibson's 'The Beaver' Soft in Box Office Debut

1:00 PM PST 05/08/2011 by Pamela McClintock
Summit Entertainment

The Jodie Foster-directed film grosses just $104,000 from 22 theaters in its opening weekend.

Jodie Foster’s The Beaver, starring Mel Gibson, has had the kind of publicity that most arthouse films only dream of -- thanks to Gibson’s polarizing behavior.

But that buzz failed to deliver. The film, in which Foster also stars, opened this weekend to a disappointing $104,000 from 22 theaters in top markets. The per-screen average -- the standard by which limited releases are judged -- was only $4,745.

Summit was hoping for a per-screen average in the $15,000 to $18,000 range.

“I think people will try to read into these numbers and say it is a repudiation of Mel, but I don’t think that’s true,” Summit executive Richie Fay said. “The film is a tough sell.”

He may have a point. The Beaver did its biggest business by far in Los Angeles, the very place where Gibson is arguably the most controversial.

The Beaver grossed $12,357 at the Arclight Hollywood, and $12,051 at the Landmark -- nearly double the business any other theater did. The next top-grossing theaters were in New York, where The Beaver took in $6,700 at AMC’s Lincoln Square 13 and $6,382 at Regal’s Union Square Stadium.

The Beaver saw its lowest grosses in Washington, D.C., Boston and Chicago.

Most specialty films open first in New York and Los Angeles only, in order to build word-of-mouth. Summit decided to go wider, but its release strategy for the coming weeks could now be adjusted.

Following its international premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, Summit is planning to take The Beaver into additional U.S. cities on May 20.  

Foster’s film has received solid, but not great, reviews. Foster herself has been heavily promoting The Beaver, which also stars Anton Yelchin and Jennifer Lawrence.

Summit’s financial exposure on The Beaver is limited because of Participant’s involvement. The film cost $21 million to produce, with much of the budget financed through foreign presales.

The Beaver was supposed to open last year, but its release was delayed because of the controversy surrounding Gibson over tapes recorded by his ex-girlfriend.

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