The Beaver
Credit: Ken Regan

One of the tough decisions Summit Entertainment had to make regarding Mel Gibson’s film The Beaver was whether to release it late last year for awards consideration or hold it until 2011. Now that it performed so poorly it its first weekend of limited release (barely earning $100,000 in 22 theaters), it’s interesting to wonder how different the movie’s fate would have been if it had come out last December.

When I saw The Beaver months ago, I had a couple issues with it, but felt that Gibson gave a strong performance, albeit one that wouldn’t have had the chance of unseating any of the five eventual Oscar nominees for Best Actor (Colin Firth, James Franco, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeff Bridges, and Javier Bardem). But I do think that the oftentimes gutsy (and kooky) Hollywood Foreign Press Association may have considered rewarding Gibson with a Best Actor in a Comedy nod. After all, the pickings were so slim in that category last year that Johnny Depp scored nominations for Alice in Wonderland and The Tourist alongside Paul Giamatti, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Kevin Spacey. (That’s assuming the HFPA placed the film in the comedy category, which wouldn’t have been a sure thing.) “People did really like his performance,” one Globe voter tells me, “but it’s tough to say how their ballots would have differed.” Had Summit gambled on a late December release and gotten that big-ticket nomination in advance of the film’s opening, I’d imagine The Beaver would have earned more than $4,890 per theater.

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