Apoca-Dipto: Mel Gibson's Movie Sputters

Mel Gibson's 'Apocalypto' | 'Dreamgirls,' 'Borat' | Al Franken | O.J.'s Editor

Mel Gibson's Movie Sputters

Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto" took a beating over the weekend, falling to No. 6 at the box office.

The total for the gory Mayan history lesson was $7.7 million, bringing its cumulative take to just under $28 million.

Overall, "Apocalypto" was down 48.5 percent from its debut weekend. After a so-so start, it fell more every day than any film in the top 10 from Monday through Thursday last week.

New releases — "The Pursuit of Happyness," "Eragon" and "Charlotte's Web" — all deservedly finished well above "Apocalypto."

By the end of the coming week, "Dreamgirls," "The Good Shepherd" and several other new films should knock the Gibson film — in which a panther eats a man's face — right off the charts and out of theaters.

So much for the spin that "Apocalypto" might be a hit. It's not. Gibson, who put up his own money to make it, will take a big hit in the wallet, since the violent adventure flick cost at least $50 million to make.

Disney, with $25 million or more already pledged in marketing and distribution, will struggle to not lose it.

Gibson, as I reported last week, used several million dollars of his proceeds from "The Passion of the Christ" to build his private church in Malibu. He kicked in $8 million last year, bringing total assets to $22 million.

But he won't be able to make donations from "Apocalypto" if the movie takes a comparable hit at the box office in the coming days.

'Dreamgirls,' 'Borat': Best PR Campaigns

The two best press campaigns for movies this year? The answer is a tie, with a couple of very different films having gotten the absolute best marketing treatment.

Interestingly, both "Borat" and "Dreamgirls" began their lives at the Cannes Film Festival. That should tell us something right there.

At Cannes, Dreamworks' Terry Press organized what will now be recalled as a memorable event at which the studio showed 20 minutes of the film.

The entire cast (except Eddie Murphy) was present. David Geffen, who never attends such gatherings, came along with Paramount's Brad Grey and Tom Freston. A nervous Jennifer Hudson arrived with her family. Beyonce was so nervous she was crying before the screening began. Jamie Foxx just danced around the room; you had the feeling that he knew.

The audience of invited guests cheered as we saw several numbers. We were not shown Hudson singing the signature song, "And I'm Telling You." It was a smart move.

Clearly, from what we saw, "Dreamgirls" was explosive. The party was a total success. Suddenly, this unfinished film was the talk of the festival.

Everything since then, including the terrific piece in yesterday's New York Times style section with Mary Wilson of the Supremes, has unfolded with classy calculation.

Paramount/Dreamworks' decision to show the movie exclusively at $25 a pop for one week in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco has only fueled the interest. The limited engagement is sold out.

And then there was "Borat." In Cannes, members of the media got e-mail invites to a small theater in the marketplace, away from the nightly glitz. When we arrived, saw the film, met Sacha Baron Cohen (out of character) and Azamat (in character) plus director Larry Charles (who is a character). The rest was history.

The whole build-up to the "Borat" release was priceless as Cohen did his interviews in character. Subsequent lawsuits from unwitting participants only helped add interest. And Pamela Anderson's divorce from Kid Rock being ascribed to the movie — a move from left field — really gassed the engine.

But nothing could have helped "Borat" become a phenomenon more than the country of Kazakhstan's objections to the film. That, and a lawsuit from the Romanian villagers who were in the movie, were pure genius! You couldn't invent this, it was too good to be true.

So if there are gold statues for publicity campaigns, I say get them ready for the folks who worked on these movies. And congrats — it was the most fun manipulation of the public in a long time.

Al Franken: No Surprise

It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that Al Franken is going to run for the U.S. Senate from Minnesota.

Franken's whole plan is outlined in the documentary, "Al Franken: God Spoke" which played in theaters this fall. "God Spoke" should be hitting cable TV and DVD release soon.

In the Chris Hegedus-Nick Doob film, Franken travels to Minneapolis with his wife, Franny, rents an apartment and begins to raise money for the run. It's explained in the film — and shown to good effect — that he had a long friendship with the late Sen. Paul Wellstone.

Franken would have to leave Air America, the beleaguered liberal radio network, in order to make a serious political campaign. But with low ratings and no funding, Air America cannot seem like much of a pull for him anymore.

On the other hand, in "God Spoke," Franken comes across as an earnest candidate. He's also already incredibly popular in Minnesota among Democrats. And if a guy from the "Love Boat" can become a congressman, I suppose anything is possible.

O.J. Editor Dis-Mantled in Nick of Time

Judith Regan, the woman who tried to bring us O.J. Simpson's "If I Did It," also almost published a nasty fictionalized memoir of baseball great Mickey Mantle in which the hard-partying home run-hitter had a fantasy affair with Marilyn Monroe.

Luckily, she was fired on Friday by HarperCollins, a division of News Corp. (our corporate parent), and not a moment too soon.

Almost simultaneously, in downtown New York at the Canal Room, actor/comedian/writer Harry Shearer was cracking wise about Regan at he and his wife's (singer Judith Owen's) benefit to raise money for New Orleans.

You can read all about this terrific charity at http://www.tipitinasfoundation.org, where you can also see a video from recluse Fats Domino and order his new album.

It was a wildly funny and warm night of performances from Harry and Judith, as well as the great Julia Fordham, Jill Sobule, They Might Be Giants and guest star Paul Shaffer.

For some reason, Marshall Crenshaw lurked about on stage but never played anything. It was a little odd.

Anyway, Harry — who is heartbreakingly good with Catherine O'Hara in "For Your Consideration" — did sing a wonderful song about John Kerry called "Christmas in Oblivion," and took some sharp pokes at a lot of topical subjects.

Shaffer, by the way, brought along famed session singer Susan Collins, who can hold her own with Ronnie Spector any day of the week.

P.S. The Canal Room was a hot restaurant called Smokestack Lightning in the early 1980s. No one remembers this but me and other people of a certain age.

Also from the Mesozoic era: The famed and legendary Cedar Tavern in Greenwich Village has apparently shut down after many decades. It will be replaced by something atrocious, no doubt, which will detract from the landmark neighborhood.

The Cedar was a gathering place for famous artists and writers like Jackson Pollock, Larry Rivers, Willem de Kooning and Jack Kerouac. It is also featured in the wonderful novels of Dawn Powell.

So now add it to a list with CBGB, the real Balducci's, the Coach House, the Bottom Line and the Variety Arts Theater. I guess people will still come to the Village to get the historical vibe from the new chocolate shop on Broadway, where milkshakes are $7.80. Yes, you read that right. ...