By Peter Knegt | Indiewire May 8, 2011 at 4:8AM
Jodie Foster's long-awaited third directorial effort, "The Beaver," opened in 22 theaters across North America this weekend to dismal box office returns. Starring PR nightmare Mel Gibson as a clinically depressed toy company CEO who finds solace through a beaver hand puppet, the film grossed an estimated $104,000 over the weekend, averaging just $4,727. To put that into perspective, last month "Atlas Shrugged, Part 1" averaged $5,608 from a significantly wider 299 theaters, while Robert Redford's "The Conspirator" averaged $5,500 from an even wider 707 screens.
"The Beaver" is also the worst debut for a Foster-directed film. In 1991, "Little Man Tate" grossed $230,106 from just 7 theaters in its opening weekend (averaging $32,872), while box office disappointment "Home For The Holidays" grossed $4,007,717 from 1,000 theaters in 1996 (its average of $4,007 rivals "The Beaver" despite it opening on 50 times the screens).
With a budget of $21 million, "The Beaver" was not a costly endeavor and will break even with foreign sales. However, these numbers are still not promising and suggest North American audiences are not up for seeing Gibson back on the big screen. The last film that featured Gibson in a starring role to gross under $40 million was 1993's "The Man Without a Face" (his directorial debut), and it would be quite the achievement for "The Beaver" to gross even $20 million at this point. Perhaps it will soar to unexpected heights when it expands later this month, but so far that's looking extremely unlikely.
For a list of the 10 best per-theater-averages of those reporting indies, click here.
Other openers didn't fair better. The horrifically reviewed Mickey Rourke-Megan Fox starrer "Passion Play," grossed just $2,056 from its 2 screen debut via Image Entertainment. That amount to a $1,028 average, and the suggestion audiences won't be getting the opportunity to take in "Passion" for much longer.
Tribeca Film opened "Last Night" on 10 screens in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Dallas. The film - which stars Keira Knightley, Eva Mendes and Sam Worthington - grossed $32,000 for a weak per-theater-average of $3,200. The film will add engagements in Boston and Washington DC next weekend.
Samuel Goldwyn released Roland Joffe's historical epic "There Be Dragons" on an an aggressive 259 screens, the result being a respectable (but unspectacular) $688,940. That gave "Dragons" - which stars Charlie Cox and Wes Bentley - a per-theater-average of $2,660.
Diego Vega and Daniel Vega's "Octubre" opened on 2 screens for New Yorker Films. The acclaimed Peruvian import grossed $8,258 for a $4,129 per-theater-average.
Meanwhile, last weekend's top debut, Werner Herzog's "Cave of Forgotten Dreams," expanded from 5 to 50 screens in its second frame. The doc, which screened in both 2-D and 3-D versions, grossed an estimated $350,000 for distributor Sundance Selects. That amounted to a strong $7,000 per-theater-average and a new total of $575,000. "Dreams" follows an exclusive expedition into the nearly inaccessible Chauvet Cave in France, home to the most ancient visual art known to have been created by man. Sundance Selects picked up the film out of the Toronto Film Festival last fall and will expand the film to the top 50 markets next weekend.
Sony Pictures Classics saw mixed results from the continued expansion of Denis Villeneuve's "Incendies" and Morgan Spurlock's "POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold." Academy Award-nominated Quebec import "Incendies" expanded from 10 to 11 U.S. screens in its third frame and took in a $66,456 gross. That made for a strong $6,041 per-theater-average. "Incendies" has now totaled $226,910 in addition to the $3 million-plus it grossed in Canada since opening last fall.
"Greatest Movie," meanwhile, went from 36 to 46 screens in its third weekend. The doc, which takes on American brand marketing, grossed $66,689 and averaged just $1,450. That's not promising news as the film continues to expand. So far, Spurlock's latest has totaled $340,405.
Rocky Mountain Pictures' aforementioned Ayn Rand adaptation, "Atlas Shrugged, Part I," continued to fail in its fourth weekend. Though its producers suggested it would hit 1,000 screens after its somewhat promising debut, the film went from 371 screens down to 228 in its third frame. The result was a massive 71% drop in grosses, taking in $137,443 for a pathetic per-theater-average of $603. The $20 million-budgeted film has now grossed $4,749,360.
In its fourth frame, IDP/Samuel Goldwyn's release of Giuseppe Capotondi's Italian thriller "The Double Hour" expanded to 17 screens and continued to do decent business. It grossed $76,500 for a per-theater-average of $4,500. The film's total now stands at $242,543.
Kelly Reichardt's epic indie Western, "Meek's Cutoff," expanded ever so slightly in its fifth weekend, going from 10 to 19 screens. The film, distributed by Oscilloscope, jumped 55% in grosses as a result, taking in $53,919 and averaging $2,838. The total for "Cutoff" now stands at at $209,717 as it continues to expand.
Tom McCarthy's "Win Win" dropped its screen count in its seventh weekend (down from 306 to 268) and showed signs of decline. The high school wrestling dramedy, starring Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan and Bobby Cannavale, still took in another $485,000 and brought its total to a fantastic $8,307,531.
In its ninth frame, Cary Fukunaga's adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's "Jane Eyre" also slowly began to recede. It dropped to 248 theaters (from 294) and took in $384,154. Distributor Focus Features should still be quite pleased with the film's $9,387,816 total, which makes it the highest-grossing limited release of 2011 so far. The film, which stars Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell and Judi Dench, should squeak past the $10 million mark in the next week or two, as should "Win Win." Together, the two films are certainly the MVPs of the 2011 specialty market thus far.
Finally, in its whopping 12th weekend, Paladin's unique release of Tom Shadyac's "I Am" went to its widest count yet -- 66 screens -- and saw good results as it inched toward the $1 million mark. The doc, in which Shadyac speaks with intellectual and spiritual leaders about what's wrong with the world and how it can be improved, grossed $136,950 for an average of $2,075. That gives the film a new total of $932,233, a stellar number for such a slow-and-steady limited release. indieWIRE profiled the film's unique release strategy last month.