Mel Gibson's flop 'The Beaver': What went wrong?


Image Credit: Ken Regan

The Beaver, to be blunt, tanked last weekend. The PG-13 dramedy, starring Mel Gibson as a severely depressed toy-company executive who starts using a beaver hand-puppet to communicate with the world, opened in 36th place with $107,577. Granted, the film was playing in just 22 theaters, but the math works out to only $4,890 per theater. Gibson’s last film, 2010’s Edge of Darkness, debuted to a per-theater average of $5,615 — at more than 3,000 locations. And that movie was considered a box-office failure. For comparison’s sake, the indie smash Black Swan opened to $1.4 million at 18 locations for a per-site average of, whoa, $88,863.

Nobody was expecting Swan-like numbers for The Beaver, which Summit Entertainment considered releasing last year before settling on March 23 and then switching to May 6. After all, Gibson has spent the past year swamped in controversy due to the leak of allegedly threatening phone calls between the actor and his ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva, as well as a subsequent misdemeanor battery charge. (Gibson pleaded no contest as part of a plea bargain that didn’t contain an admission of guilt.) Still, The Beaver was directed by and costarred Jodie Foster, and also featured such up-and-comers as Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone, The Hunger Games) and Anton Yelchin (Star Trek). The $21 million film should have done better than this, so what happened? Who or what’s to blame? Well, the film’s underperformance was likely the result of a few factors: 

1. The reviews weren’t strong enough.

Unlike wide releases, for which studios spend millions upon millions to convince you that a movie’s worth seeing regardless of its potential horribleness, limited releases rely heavily on critics. “Whenever I look at a platform release that doesn’t work, the first thing I look at are the film’s reviews,” says one rival studio executive. “And for a platform release, [The Beaver‘s reviews] were really soft.” The movie scored a 59 rating at Metacritic (designating mixed or average reviews) and a 63 percent approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Clearly not awful reviews, but not the kind of reviews that makes one rush out to see a movie that may be playing clear across town, either.

2. The Mel Gibson ick factor.

Despite The Beaver‘s mostly mediocre reviews, critics were generally impressed by Gibson’s performance. In her review, EW’s Lisa Schwarzbaum called the movie an “adventurous character study by a passionate Mel Gibson” who delivers “high-quality work.” But people don’t approach movies in a pop-culture vacuum. No matter the amount of praise he received or the uniqueness of the character he played, that’s still Mel Gibson’s mug being projected onto the screen. And while you’d like to think that most people would be willing to separate an actor’s personal life from his professional work, that’s simply not the case. It’s reasonable to believe that a significant portion of moviegoers stayed away from The Beaver simply because they wanted nothing to do with Gibson. “You’d assume at some point America would forgive him,” says an executive from another studio. “But maybe they’re not ready to yet.”

3. The film’s subject matter.

If you asked your friend whether she’d like to see a movie about a guy who finds redemption via a talking beaver puppet, what would her initial response be? Obviously there’s a lot more to The Beaver than that simplistic synopsis, but movies often flourish or drown based upon someone’s quick answer to the question: “What’s it about?” An atypical movie like The Beaver requires marketing that’s particularly persuasive. “The subject matter is a hard sell,” Richie Fay, Summit’s domestic distribution president, told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s not the type of role that people would gravitate to or expect [Gibson] to be in.” As a result, many moviegoers may have opted to simply wait until the film comes out on Netflix.

4. Stars don’t hold as much sway these days.

Along with The Beaver, two other indie films with big-name stars were also released last weekend: the romantic drama Last Night, starring Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington, and the thriller Passion Play, with Mickey Rourke, Megan Fox, and Bill Murray. The two movies debuted to a combined $31,605. With access to Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, not to mention Twitter, Facebook, and a plethora of entertainment sites, moviegoers have become more savvy and discerning. Art-house movies used to count on a well-known actor to help bring in a crowd, but now indie audiences seem more impressed by glowing reviews and Oscar buzz. The Beaver had neither, although EW’s Dave Karger thinks Gibson could have possibly scored a Golden Globe nomination had the film been released late last year.

To those who skipped The Beaver last weekend, what was your rationale? Would you have been more likely to check out the film had it starred someone other than Mel Gibson?

Read more:
EW’s review of ‘The Beaver’
Golden Globe nominee Mel Gibson? What if ‘The Beaver’ had been released last year?
Mel Gibson breaks his silence: talks about tapes scandal, his damaged rep, and why he doesn’t care if he acts ever again
Jodie Foster defends Mel Gibson at the world premiere of ‘The Beaver’

Comments (276 total) Add your comment
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  • kate middleton

    How about the title? I think that’s a major problem with it.

    • Jam

      The whole vibe of the movie reminds me of that Rob Reiner movie “North” which received distinction of getting 0 stars – and just remembered Rob gushing bout the movie on Letterman “and Bruce Willis plays a pink Bunny…” and the look he sorta like that..sounds like a good premise..but fails…if you are going to do the talking beaver movie..think Raquel Welch already covered this in Myra Breckenridge…but seriously…think the only a ‘talking anything’ only works is if you go for more comedy – like the talking rabbit puppet in the sitcom “Unhappily Ever After” ..missed that show..

      • tiavro

        d’awww I remember that movie. Cute wittle Elijah Wood.

      • kate middleton

        Yeah, I agree. Since it’s a talking puppet thing, it seems like it would be a comedy at first. So I think there’s some genre confusion, confusion about the subject matter, dislike of Mel, bad title, not much buzz, and it’s only in 22 theaters. Lots of contributing factors.

      • SweetHomeAlabama

        If Mr. Gibson is such a good Christian, why is he having extramarital sex? Mel has that “do as I say, not as I do” mentality and no one likes giving their hard-earned $$$ to a hypocrite.

      • J.A.

        North’s real distinction wasn’t the zero stars. It was Ebert’s first lines of his review. I hated hated hated this movie. Hated it.

        Best worst review ever.

      • Popeye

        Yea, he’s not like most other celebrities who are “good” role models. He had an affair and said some bad words. OMG!

      • lover

        I am a 33 years old CEO, rich and strong.but still single … now I am seeking a nice woman who can give me true love
        so i got a username marryme11 on
        —R’ichM’ingle. C’óM — .it is the first and best club for
        wealthy people and their admirers. e…you don’t have to be rich ,but you can meet one there ,maybe you wanna check it out or tell your friends !
        JOHN. Plus, I think the US market is unique and sometimes unpredictable. Let’s see how it’s doing outside US.

      • ron swanson

        Come on Sweet Home Alabama. Like Mel is the first celebrity to have an affair or say some curse words. Brad Pitt had an affair with Angelina while he was married to Jen Aniston. No one gives him any flack for it – only Angelina.

      • dave

        Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston were never married.

      • dave

        It was a publicist scam and you bit completely.

      • Juneau

        @Popeye – He did more than say bad words and have an affair. He hit a woman holding a baby and threatened to kill her. Not to mention he’s a drunk, racist, sexist pig. But you go ahead and give him more of your money. I’ll opt out of this movie for the Gibson ICK factor and the subject matter of the film.

    • Cate

      Seriously. They couldn’t come up with an animal that doesn’t already come with its own innuendo? It’s just creepy. Plus, the whole Mel thing.

      • kate middleton

        Yeah….any other animal would have been better than the beaver. I also think it’s hard to tell the genre of the movie and what it’s really about based on the talking puppet premise. Like, the first time I heard about this movie, probably like a year ago, I thought it was a joke.

      • demented

        The Bunny. The Hamster. The Deer. The Kitten.

        ANYTHING but “The Beaver.”

      • MysterWright

        Well I think its safe to say by this account that the proverbial bloom is off the rose of this smarmy, anti-American sentiment love affair that this country had been in since Sept. 11th. I say this only because it appears to me that they call this the Beaver and here Mel Gibson is, a baby boomer whose generation grew up on Leave It To Beaver. Its like separate innuendo that’s not sexual in nature but still a proposition nonetheless thinking Americans that naive knowing our hands tied amongst allies that were searching for Bin Laden. To foreign and domestic hedge-betting troublemakers on behalf of the entire United States and creators of this film I say in the words of character Doug from Ghost World, imitating the host of Inside The Actors Studio: “you wish, you’d have to buy me dinner first.”

      • kate middleton

        Ummm, what the heck do Mel Gibson and The Beaver have to do with 9/11 or Bin Laden? You’re not making sense.

      • ashman

        MysterWright, do you have ANY CLUE at all what you were trying to say on that post? Cause I sure as heck don’t.

    • Le HIROSHI

      More or less agree with all of the above, JOHN. Plus, I think the US market is unique and sometimes unpredictable. Let’s see how it’s doing outside US.


      The irony of the ick factor is that on contrary Polanski’s films seemed going relatively well despite the incident.


      And I think Foster’s name somehow confused the average viewers – they might be looking simply to entertain themselves and assumed hers did otherwise, while the others, film snobs in particular, might be in want of something special but ironically saw hers as none but another popcorn-flick type. Just say’n.

      • Le HIROSHI

        “All of the above”: the factors written by John Young.

      • Le HIROSHI

        “Spouse: Robyn Moore Gibson (1980-PRESENT)”. . .


        Present? . . . And still, he’d lived in with that girlfriend with an Eastern European name who also happens to be mother of his child/children as well?


        Welcome to . . . Hollywood?

      • kate middleton

        He and Robyn have been separated for several years, but I don’t think the divorce is finalized yet. Robyn testified for Mel with the Oksana stuff.

      • Sweetheart

        I agre with you specialy convcerning the poansky cynical thing. the b´guy beat balck and blue a 13 eyars old girl and drug her and sodomose her and amny knew it wasnt the first itme an dhe was doin gteens orgies at jack Nickolsons house regulary, and a few month after escaping USA got together with underage natsha kinsly and then severla others teens, but yet people say aw it doesnt matter, the poor thing was in Prag getto. yuck. thats a free pass to child molesting?? since when??
        its surely hypocrisy.
        About Robyn they separated in august 2006, divorced in april 2009, still to be finalised.
        Mle Gibisn never lived wiht that oksana, and no the 2 kids she has are not form Mle Gibson.
        One is 14 eyars old, boy, and son of timothy dalton and the other was alegedly born in ocotber 30 2009, but Mle Gibosn is not the fahter of lucia, and oksan is not its mother. She semes to ahve bought that child as a baby in Ulkriane and imported it in Cali wihtout mel gibsons knwoldedge, using her mother, who lived in ukriane, and pass that baby as hers and Mel Gibson. thats what Mle Gibson found out about and who is the cause of the split but also of the extortion and tapes.
        she used the tapes as threat to keep him silent about the origin of th echild and later on Mle Gibson had no other choice but to remain silent.

      • Tajah

        @sweetheart Some crazy theories you have thrown out about Oksana and Mel. Would like to know how you know this info.

      • jury’s out

        @sweetheart- If Oskana bought the baby from the Ukraine and tried to pass it off as Mel’s and there is proof of this, wouldn’t he have made a statement to the press? He wouldn’t have to pay child support and it would make Oskana look really bad. I’d also like to know how you know this.

    • Strepsi

      @ JOHN YOUNG: you honestly didn’t include THE TITLE? “Hey kids, it’s movie night, let’s check out The Beaver:. No.

      The title, the concept, the very premise is something that could only be approved by a hipster film student or someone in Hollywood so long their artistic head is in their a** — sorry, Jodie.

    • Rush

      Why isn’t this Jodie Foster’s failure. Or would the article title “Jodie Foster’s Floppy Beaver” be too risque for the magazine?

      • ron swanson

        That’s a good point. I think she shares some of the blame…and I doubt people would be talking about this movie at all if Mel wasn’t in it.

      • ryan

        Well because it got alright reviews Rush. And gibson is the one in the spotlight right now. Did you really not know the answer or were you just trying to say something smart?

    • steph

      exactly! I think I’ll see it on DVD or whatever, just because of the title, lol.

    • Mac

      I think you hit the nail on the head with the ick factor. As far as the premise, it’s something that I might have considered seeing had it been starring someone like Zack Galifianakis or even Jim Carrey. Gibson, on the other hand is not known for his comedy chops.

      Additionally, I also have no intention of paying to see him in a movie ever again.

      • @Mac

        Oh Mac, you are a racist, so just shut up.

  • Bill

    Uh. I might have, but it wasn’t playing anywhere near me. Will wait for the Blu-Ray.

    • Sweetheart

      YES exactly!
      I even read commnets of peole who had a theater playing it near by but didnt even knew so and found out about it yesterday!!
      and its true the movie wasnt given enouhg publicity.. except form summit entertianment who gravely damaged Mel Gibsons image by getting him fired form a cameo and resurecting the story 2 weeks ago, a few days befroe the beaver limited premiere by firering indirectly liam neesson form that cameo.. Honestly doesnt it sound like free publicity for hangingthere movie, on the cost of Mel Gibson??
      Jodie shoiuld sue them for sabotaging a movie they are suposed to suport and advertise for!

  • Duh

    #2. Moviegoers (finally) want nothing to do with Mel Gibson.

    • ummmm

      suuuure, thats it. get real, Mel is still going to sell movies.

      • @ummmm

        really? The guy is done, plain and simple. Wife beating pigs like you will still go see his movies, but most people with a shred of integrity won’t pay him a dime

      • demented

        Then why is he NOT selling movies? The last one he did was a flop. This latest one is an EPIC flop.

      • Sweetheart

        can you prove it??

      • SLB

        I’m not a wife beating pig and i’ll still go to his movies.

      • JRockMovie

        I also have no intention of paying to see him in a movie EVER again based on his racist and anti-semitic comments.

      • ryan

        Yeah ummmm.. are you the same person who like to make people be vegans, not wear fur, paper, cars. etc. just because you refuse to except what other people think. Oh Mel gibson is in Thor, so I guess we can’t see it. Grow up and learn to live with it UMMMM. He has a judge! Oh are you a lawyer, cop, or judge in charge of his punishment. Im so sorry I did not realize I was talking to the honorable f*cking UMMMMM. how bout you rot in hell.

    • morgan

      I disagree. There is no dispute that Mel Gibson is a legend, both famous and infamous, as well as a fine actor for past 30 years or so. The man still has tons of fans. All he needs to be on top again is another great movie that’s properly promoted. That and a hardened heart that won’t let vicious people, like you and this next blogger, get to him. You people are like lynch mobs when it comes to the underdogs like Lindsey Lohan, Charlie Sheen, and Mel Gibson. You guys reek of negativity and no goodness. And there’s just too many of you out there, putting out all this negativity in the Force. I try to ignore it but,you’re giving me a headache. Just remember, what you put out there, comes back threefold.

      • kate middleton

        I agree. I think if Mel had another great movie – like Braveheart, The Patriot, etc, I still think it would be a hit. There are some folks who would not go just because of Mel, but all in all, people are pretty forgiving, especially as time passes. I mean, look at RDJ, Charlie Sheen (up until recently), etc.

      • BruceMpls

        morgan – if it comes threefold as you say, Mel is in some deep sh1t right about now. I have many of Mel’s films and liked him but really, enough is enough. I’ll let my money speak for me and it sure isn’t going to him anymore.

      • Zach

        But he was never much of an actor. He’s like Tom Cruise – the pretty fades, and they don’t age well or make bigoted statements. Hmm, I wonder why this film tanked.

      • demented

        Ah, so it’s all OUR fault that Mel is a despised pariah renowned for beating women, infidelity and bigotry. Suddenly everything is so clear.

        And I wouldn’t pompously tell people about the whole threefold principle, because being “negative” is infinitely better than the stuff Mel has done. The threefold nastiness coming to him will be truly horrifying.

      • Sweetheart

        nobody know what oyu are tlaking about demented, but oyu are truely demented and tourmented.
        have a kit kat.

  • Mel Gibson is a LOSER… burn in hell racist!

    This racist misogynistic anti-semetic insecure loser got what he deserved. Burn in hell loser! haha

    • joblo

      Gimme a break. It’s amazing what society decides is and isn’t acceptable behavior from its stars. We’ve got actors & athletes who’ve done far worse than Mel ever did who we still support and adore. No excuses for Gibson’s behavior, but it seems ridiculous to pick and choose like that.

      As for your “burn in hell” comment, I hope you can live up to the high standards you set. I certainly am not going to condemn someone to that, especially when they struggle with an addiction.

      • Teri

        Gibson made himself the turd in the punchbowl. Not suggesting he should be stoned in the town square, but we do have the right to shun him.

      • steph

        I agree. Kobe Bryant and Ben Rothlesberger anyone?

      • Mac

        Whether or not others have done worse things isn’t the issue; in Mel’s case, unfortunately for him, his tirades towards his ex were recorded and then released to the public. At that point, it was no longer “he said, she said.” It was definitely, “what HE said.”

        It’s harder for people to give him the benefit of the doubt when you hear him in his own words.

        He also doesn’t seem to have done anything to try and make amends to the various communities that he’s offended, indicating that he either doesn’t care or doesn’t realize that he has anger management issues.

    • hmmm

      Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

      • Winkydoo

        hmmm, we’ve read the book. Ironically, your post indicates that you are judging us by ye olde Christian yardstick. Piss off, Baal.

    • and you

      and you (burn in hell poster) are pure?? Its OK to tell him to burn in hell?? And racist has to do with race. religion was what he commented on when he was drunk. (whats your excuse??) Im sick of this Mel bashing. Have we all not said crap when we were drunk?? Or said things in private out of anger?? go ahead and judge. love that you are so self righteous for others, but yourself.

      • Squishmar

        No, actually, saying he is racist and anti-Semitic is redundant. Jews are a race of people…genetically identified from non-Jews; a known genetic strain (assuming, of course, one did not convert).

    • Bob

      Maxine Waters?? Is that you??

  • The Dude

    All good points, but the one HUGE factor that is missing: buzz. Small movies (aka movies without huge advertising campaigns) like “Black Swan” can make a killing at the box office riding off of great buzz from film festivals and high-profile industry screenings. This one just didn’t have ANY buzz, and so even indie-film lovers probably had no real motivation to go out and see this. When you’ve got no buzz, you’ve pretty much gotta devote some funds to advertising…and since I didn’t see a single ad for this movie over the past few weeks, I’m not surprised at all by its lackluster performance. Which is a shame, because it’s supposedly not bad (not great, but not bad).

    • JD Wurl

      I abide

    • Betty

      I agree. I’ve seen one ad for this movie and that was weeks ago. You have to sell it for people to see it

  • PJ

    Seriously? You’re going to ask “to those who skipped The Beaver”? Maybe because it was only in 22 theatres?

    • Ed

      Excellent point, PJ. Seems a bit premature to declare it a flop, even with the per-screen math. However, I will not see it, mainly because it looks stupid, and I was over Mel Gibson long ago (around the “What Women Want” era).

    • Sachith

      Aw, I was tiknhing the same thing, and I’m a pretty big guy. I’ve never actually tried to SDHP w/ 275, but .just realized it’s not SDHP. I assume just start like you’re going to do SDHP, but don’t bother with the part where you pull the weight with your arms to your chin, once you stand up with the weight, you’re done, like a traditional deadlift, but with you’re feet farther apart.

  • Mel Gibson

    I h a t e b l a c k s, jews, kittens and myself. Guess I must hate my career too.

    Well, time to go back to Australia. Maybe I can get a job with Paul Hogan flipping burgers. I can sleep on Yahoo Serious’s couch.

    Later, uh, MATES!

    • Esox

      Where does Paul Hogan flip burgers?

      Dudes got enough coin to own the burger place too. Y’think he’d offer Mel a job there? Would Mel accept? Do you think they know each other because hey, all Australians know each other? Does that Thor guy hang there too?

    • Teri

      Duh! Gibson was born in Peekskill New York.

      • Esox

        Cool! That means he can be elected President!

  • dm

    Aside from all the Mel baggage, the movie itself just looks weird and depressing.

    • I agree

      It does! I agree! Waaaay depressing.

  • Frank

    Mel Gibson has every right to state his opinions about topics such as religion and sexuality and I have every right not to spend a dime of my money ever supporting his projects as a result.

    • Billy

      Perfectly expressed.

      Good Bye Mel…I used to like you, but goodbye forever. Your views are sick.

      You have a right to talk and make movies. I will ignore you.

    • Frank and Billy

      I hope you both never spend a dime on most of hollywood if you are going to judge with such high and mighty thoughts. And make sure to examine your own lives!

      • Jezebel

        @frank and billy — the truth is most people are pretty decent. Most of us don’t get paid the stupid magic money that actors do … we just work hard & get on with life. If someone as privileged as Mel gets paid the money movie goers lavished on him & he chooses go on racist rants and all the rest … well gosh. We look at ourselves and think have we ever done something that dumb? Most of us havent. So is there a point you want to make? Cuz I’m good. And I think most of the poster are good.

      • @FrankandBilly

        Ok, I have examined my own life, and I have never spoken to another human being the way he did to a person he professed to love. I have never beaten on another person. I have never used racial slurs to describe someone different than me. Am I perfect? No, but I certainly have the right to look on this man with disgust and refuse to give him my hard earned money. Suggesting otherwise makes you look like an ass, not me. Maybe you should be examining your life ans see why you feel the need to stand up for such a horrible human being

      • Amy

        The premise of the movie intrigued me, but I refuse to spend money on Mel Gibson. We’ve all said terrible things, and lived to regret them, but he seems to be saying the same things over and over again. This was not a one time occurrence. It is clear that he believes certain things, and I choose to not support him, plain and simple. Plus his father is deplorable.

      • Sweetheart

        qand you have that nfo from where amy?
        Mel Gibson didn trepeated a thign, but th emedia did.. see my point??
        they rpeeat lied enog times os that people end up beleiving them.
        but they are stil lies.

      • Katie

        Amy, do you know his Father? Shut the hell up!

  • Marie

    Yeah, I’m sorry, I don’t live near one of those 22 theaters. So think about that before you say a movie flopped. Also, this had a similar per-site average compared to Something borrowed, which was thought to have done quite well.

  • Biden

    I think you be a little hard on The Beaver.

    • Rhaz

      I’m sorry, but LOL!

    • Kat

      That’s what she said!

  • Heather

    um…because it sounded like a porn film maybe?

  • nick

    the subject matter is too dr.phil for gibson. he’ll never be a major star again, but it could’ve done better had the material been more his thing.

    • Minami

      Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, Mel GibsonOne of these things is not like the other… I think that about ovecrs it. Also, I would venture to say that at the moment Mel Gibson is a better filmmaker than Oliver Stone and Woody Allen, although I haven’t seen any of Polanski’s recent films. Oliver Stone’s last 5 films or so have been laughably bad, and the preview for Wall St II looks terrible. Woody Allen hasn’t made any good movies in about 30 years.

    • hanane

      Interval bike on the trainer this mrnniog. Kept the intervals to 4 min. 8x4min/2rec. Gonna do the S&C WOD tomorrow AM. Played basketball after school competitively for the first time in a while. Skills were still there surprisingly. I guess that is the PE teacher in me. Mobility rest of night while watching Wildcard Wedensday.

  • Everyone Everywhere

    The Beaver should be stuffed.

  • forager

    How did it tank it’s playing in a total of three theaters. Mass release is scheduled for next month. Dopes.

    • Sweetheart

      Eight! its unbelievable how one website stating it flop can unravel an avalanche of “it floped” in all websites???’
      I have alos read movie reveiwers totaly forgetting to tlak of the movie and in worse, once asked, who had not even swee the movie yet critisided heavily jodies directing and Mel Gibson’s performance!!
      Give me a break!
      the movie did very well.
      It will easily gtoss 100 millon odlars in US and ovr 200 M dollars oversee

      • @Sweetheart


      • nick

        i don’t know what you’re laughing at… sweetheart’s right–the beaver will “easily” gross $200Mil–oh f*k it, i can’t do this, HAhAHhahahahha!!

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