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December 11, 2006

Apocalypto Now

Being a professional watcher of the film industry as I am, I was asked what I thought it meant that Mel Gibson's latest film Apocalypto opened at #1 at the box office, and my answer is: Not a whole lot. The film grossed $14 million over the weekend, which makes one of the least highest-grossing films to open at #1 this year. $14 million is nothing to get too excited about -- although it does mean that at the end of the day Gibson is going to make money of the film, which cost only $40 million, that money coming from his own production company and his own pocket. Other than that, anyone trying to read the box office entrails to see whether that gross represents a confirmation of Gibson's star power or a repudiation of his box office prowess is mostly just going to end up staring at a mess of entrails.

As for my own entrail-viewing, personally speaking, Apocalypto's first weekend gross is pretty much where I expected to be even before Gibson's troubles. When Gibson first announced the project, my internal gross estimator did the math (obscure subject + foreign language + Mel Gibson's fame + Mel Gibson's directorial reputation for cinematically artistic violence = $????) and came up with a range of $10 million and $20 million for the opening weekend, which is to say I would have been surprised if it had been more or less than those amounts. $14 is right in the middle of that range, so naturally I'm pleased to see that my own gross estimating skills are still functional. I also do think it means that as regards to Gibson's incident, it didn't do much one way or another to the gross of the film. This film is going to make what it was always going to make, basically.

Where Gibson's outburst is going to hurt him is in the award nominations. Prior to his stupidity, it's possible that Gibson would have been considered for a Best Director Oscar, depending on the general strength of the end of the year movies.* As it stands now I don't think he has much chance for Oscar consideration, because too many folks are still angry with him for being a drunken anti-Semite. I think it's possible he could get nominated for a Golden Globe, because the Golden Globes are decided on by a weird little group of foreign journalists, as opposed to members of Hollywood's power structure. But as for the Oscars, I think the only major award Apocalypto is likely to be in the running for is cinematography (by Dean Semler, who previously won the award for Dances With Wolves). It might also pick up a makeup nod and possibly some nominations in technical categories. Basically the same sort of nomination loadout The Passion of the Christ got. But as for Gibson, I'll be very surprised if he or the movie gets an Oscar nod.

To be honest, the film gross this weekend that I was surprised about was not Apocalypto but The Holiday, which I expected to gross in the $15-$18 million range, given its stars and the fact that there's not much going on in the romantic comedy genre right now. But I do expect Holiday will have pretty good legs -- and indeed, here's a prediction you can quote me on, which is that I expect The Holiday to end up making more domestically than Apocalypto. I see the latter ending up in the $40-$60 million range, with the former in the $60-$80 million range, and possibly getting more. I suspect in the long run more people want to see Cameron Diaz canoodle with Jude Law than see a Mayan get his face gnawed off by a jaguar. Although: Jude Law's face gnawed off by a jaguar? $100 million, easy.

* (I should note that I think it would have been a tough year for Gibson anyway, because there is some strong competition for the director nomination this year: Clint Eastwood (for either Flags of Our Fathers or Letters from Iwo Jima), Bill Condon (Dreamgirls), Martin Scorsese (The Departed), Stephen Frears (The Queen), Steven Soderburgh (The Good German) and Pedro Almodóvar (Volver) being the other directors that come to mind right off the top of my head. But he still may have been in the running, and now I'm pretty sure he's not.)

Posted by john at December 11, 2006 11:15 AM

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Tripp | December 11, 2006 11:40 AM

As long as we are throwing out possibilities - Cameron Diaz canoodling with a jaguar - $150 Million.

I'm generally a fairly mellow guy but Gibson has finally gotten on my bad side and I don't mind holding a grudge. So I think I'm gonna skip his work like I skip Tom Cruise's and Michael Jackson's.

Steve Buchheit | December 11, 2006 11:46 AM

"internal gross estimator"

Would that be a "gut feeling" then?

And should we always put the "gross" with "estimator," or could we match it with the "internal" bit?

Or considering how many times you used the word, "gross" should we consider this a critique of the movie?

PixelFish | December 11, 2006 12:07 PM

My boyfriend and I saw The Holiday, which was successful in one thing, in that it made me forget that Jude Law fell off my list of hot men for boinking his nanny. It was a cute movie, not overly memorable, and all the best scenes are in the trailers, which is ironic, given that one of the characters has THAT job, the job where people cut trailers to make movies look better than they are.

I can still recommend it as a date movie, although I liked it less than Stranger Than Fiction.

Dr. Phil | December 11, 2006 12:09 PM

Re: The Holiday, I have two words for you:



Dr. Phil

Sam | December 11, 2006 01:16 PM

To be honest this is one of the areas where i can seperate the man from the art. Unlike books, i dont spend a week or a month watching the same movie so for two or three hrs I can forget someones politics. I'm actually interested in seeing how this movie will be (I was a history major in college and was a social studies teacher for two yrs) and how close to reality or how much fiction has been put into the movie.

Jude Law much like many of the male stars who cheat on their starlet wives definately upgraded: Brad Pitt - Upgrade...although why marry her? Christie Brinkley's husband...definate upgrade on the baby sitter. Not that I'm expousing this hanouse life shattering lifestyle, just saying if your gonna do it definately do the upgrade thing.

KL | December 11, 2006 01:36 PM

"Jude Law's face gnawed off by a jaguar? $100 million, easy."

John, I would see that in a heartbeat. AND buy the DVD.

"Cameron Diaz canoodling with a jaguar - $150 Million."

Combine that and Jude Law's face gnawed by jaguar, and you're talking mega-hit.

Mark DF | December 11, 2006 01:52 PM

After being a big fan, I wrote Mel off years ago. Between his homophobia and his uberCatholicism, I have a hard time separating the idiot man from the idiot man on the screen.

Did not see the Passion movie. When my mom asked why, I told her it was because I knew the end.

Steve Buchheit - not looking in John's direction | December 11, 2006 01:54 PM

Sam, Brad Pitt upgraded? Nah. AJ just looks like way too much work for not enough satisfaction. JA not only has great looks, has excellent career opportunities, she also has family money and connections. Brad Pitt followed his pitts and, IMHO, is a looser of the highest order. Of course, I'm not that close of a follower of the star scene so I could be completely off base.

Tripp | December 11, 2006 02:18 PM

Re: Brad Pitt

I think it depends on whether AJ pops out a couple crotch droppings. Rumor has it Pitt wanted kids and Aniston said "no."

Before anyone complains about my vulgarity - I've got four sprog of my own so don't take offense. "Crotch dropping," while yucky is literally true, very much like the fresh babies themselves. Newborns ain't very pretty, even though we 'wuv' them.

Tripp | December 11, 2006 02:20 PM


Jude Law fell off my list of hot men for boinking his nanny.

Alas, that is one of the perqs of being a hot man. Few of us are able to resist the opportunity.

Sam | December 11, 2006 02:42 PM

Still think AJ is still better looking then JA, although AJ's infatuation with her brother is scary to say the least.

I like Mel Gibson's movies I saw the Passion and didn't think it was "Jew Bashing." Although ever since watching it I wonder how Jessus could have survived even getting to the cross, I think most humans would have died from the blood loss even before he got stappled onto it.

PixelFish | December 11, 2006 03:12 PM

I'm an AJ fan. Have been since the first Tomb Raider movie. Not for the movie itself, but because when I heard they were filming in Cambodia, I gnashed my teeth with envy and growling because there was AJ, filming next to Angkor Wat, and I was convinced that as a dumb starlet, she'd have no idea how cool it was. Boy, was I wrong. As we all know, she promptly adopted Maddox, the wee mohawked Cambodian wunderorphan, and then set up a foundation in his name for forest conservation there. (And then too, crazy Gothy-looking girls have my sympathy vote.)

Chang, who gets nothing done without BRAINZ | December 11, 2006 03:35 PM

Kate Winslet. Makes pants happy...

Ahem. I'll not be seeing her new movie, however. Keee-rappy looking!

Nick Stump | December 11, 2006 04:01 PM

I think you're right. Mel Gibson will probably be ignored at the Oscars and you're right about the Golden Globes too. The foreign journalists have always been sorta weird with their voting.

For a screenwriter, the whole process is pretty scary. It's difficult keep all money stuff out of my mind when I'm writing. I sold a script to Warner Bros a few years ago. One day while I was working on one of an endless number of rewrites, I realized there were hundreds of jobs hanging on whether my script was greenlighted or not.

I wish I were a better fiction writer. At least, I would put fewer people out of work.

Christian | December 11, 2006 04:40 PM

Personally I'm hoping for Scorsese this year, he's long overdue for an Oscar.

Hell, at the very least they should give him the lifetime achievement award, or the Irving Thalberg...

So John, did you actually see "The Mayan Chainsaw Massacre", or were you just commenting on box office totals?

Sam | December 11, 2006 05:02 PM

I don't know I'm still Pissed Off at Scorsese for that crap "Gangs of New York." I want my money back and have been waiting ever since.

John Scalzi | December 11, 2006 05:05 PM


"So John, did you actually see 'The Mayan Chainsaw Massacre', or were you just commenting on box office totals?"

The latter. I haven't seen it yet.

Jim Wright | December 11, 2006 06:38 PM

I don't know. I have a hard time separating Mel Gibson the man from his work. It generally isn't an issue with me (I mean I was able to read Battlefield Earth without thinking of LRH's goofy Scientology fetish, I thought the book was complete crap mind you, but that had nothing to do LRH's personnel life. I just think his writing sucks). But in Gibson's case I keep seeing him in his first really big role, Lethal Weapon, were Danny Glover says something along the lines of "I think God hates me..." and Mel replies "Hate him back, it works for me..." He plays a character that's opened minded and a champion of the down-trodden, and more or less sneers at religion in any form. 15 years later and he's rich and famous and suddenly he's making Passion, and turns out he's not real big on anybody who doesn't answer to the Pope. Every time I see him, or even the characters he plays in his old movies, all I can see is his flaming hypocrisy and it just pisses me off. Apocalypto looks like an interesting concept, anybody else and I'd be at the theater this weekend, but in this case I just have to wonder if he hired only Straight, Catholic Native Central Americans to play the Mayans.

Jim Wright | December 11, 2006 07:23 PM

Ummm, yeah. In my post above I meant to say "..LRH's personal life." Not "Personnel life." Fingers were on autopilot or something. Doh!

Sam | December 11, 2006 08:08 PM

On a lighter note, i just read the first 3 chapters of "Androids Dream"...funny sh*t. John you are one funny mother *&^@#$!

Lisa | December 11, 2006 08:09 PM

ummmm.... I'm a bit out of the loop...

Did Jude Law boink his own personal nanny? or the nanny to his children?

Eddie | December 11, 2006 08:19 PM

In our country for reasons I don't fully understand we still idolize moviestars.

Mel Gibson is a fine actor who has made so much money he doesn't know what to do with it all.

His foray into directing has made us more aware of who he is as a man.Now we know he has weird politics and weird religion.In his private life he's not real tolerant and he's not politically correct.

Add a little mid-life alcoholism and the unsavory parts of Mel's character start to show through the Hollywood PR persona.

Now he's the man we love to hate.

We make our Tinseltown heroes and then we tear them down.

People Magazine Rules.

"Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."--H.L.Mencken

clvrmnky | December 11, 2006 08:55 PM

As for my own entrail-viewing, personally speaking ...

Is this sentence fragment scanning funny, or is it just me?

Just me, then.

PixelFish | December 11, 2006 09:11 PM

Lisa: His children's nanny.

Lisa | December 11, 2006 09:14 PM

Thanks... I had a horrible vision of him and Nanny McPhee (as she was at the beginning of the movie).

Jim | December 12, 2006 08:47 AM

I find that a large number of show biz types say amazingly dumbass things when they talk about anything at all outside of their jobs (and frequently even when they are talking about their jobs). I don't let that influence me when I decide what movie I'm going to watch any more than I would change what supermarket I shop at because I heard one of their employees saying something stupid as he stumbled out of a bar in town. You can be a dumbass and still do a good job of bagging groceries. (I'm not just talking about Mel Gibson or Alec Baldwin, I mean all of the grocery baggers, uh, I mean shining stars of the silver screen.)

Michael Walsh | December 12, 2006 12:25 PM

Best movie I've seen this year: The Prestige.

Andrew | December 12, 2006 02:09 PM

Don't see the movie. It was predictable and way overdone. It was basically an American action movie disguised as a forign film.

Tripp | December 12, 2006 02:16 PM


In our country for reasons I don't fully understand we still idolize moviestars.

People gotta have their idols - it's genetic.

Why pick movie stars? Because they appear better than us - smarter, prettier, stronger, etc. Sure, much of it is illusion, but as I said above, people gotta have idols - even illusory ones.

Eddie | December 12, 2006 02:51 PM

My idol is Jack Kevorkian.Guess that explains why I don't understand.

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little | January 4, 2007 12:15 AM

What, no one has chimed in on Michael Walsh's post in a whole month?

The Prestige was very, very good. Very beautiful, masterfully paced, although admittedly not very full of surprises unless you, like me, are very slow on the uptake. Also? It's got David Bowie in it. Dude. As Tesla.

I am looking forward to its coming out in DVD so I can turn on the English subtitles, for the sake of those bits of dialogue I never could quite make out.

Geri | January 4, 2007 06:57 PM

As of January 3, 2007, Mel's movie had grossed over $45 million domestic.(the production budget being $40 million.) The movie will be release in Europe and Asia will probably gross $100 million easy.

Not bad for a movie with sub titles.

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