Underwhelming Opening for 'Apocalypto'

'Apocalypto' | Mel Gibson | Grammy Songs: Best Samples? | Oscar Buzz: 'Scandal' Sings, 'Factory' Made | 'High Fidelity'

Gibson Film Underwhelming at Box Office

Mel Gibson’s "Apocalypto" had a so-so opening last night, taking in $4.9 million according to boxofficemojo.com.

This probably means it will take in around $13 million for the weekend, but figures won’t be certain until Sunday afternoon.

It’s not good, and it’s not terrible. But at this point it would seem that the super violent action film, told in subtitles and ancient Mayan dialect, is not going to be a cultural phenomenon. It’s simply going to come and go.

For Gibson, last night’s box office was not a high water mark. His "Passion of the Christ" opened with $26 million in one night and wound up with a staggering $83 million for its first weekend.

Other Gibson movies from earlier in this decade have also done much, much better. "Signs" and "We Were Soldiers," each released in 2002, did $60 million and $20 million respectively on their opening weekends.

Gibson’s spin team, however, is comparing "Apocalypto"’s opening to "Braveheart" in 1995, which took in $15 million over that six day Memorial Day weekend, but just $9 million from Friday through Sunday. The whole thing is apples and oranges and doesn’t take inflation into account. Otherwise, it’s a specious argument at best.

Disney should be very happy even if "Apocalypto" totally slows down on Sunday once audiences decide how comfortable they are with its level of violence. But the reality is, "Apocalypto" is not getting any Oscar nominations, save maybe for cinematography.

Mel Gibson: $8M More to Private Church

You may recall Gibson telling the officer who arrested him that he “owned half of Malibu.”

Well, not quite. But as I reported in this space last February, following up on a New York Times report by Christopher Noxon, Gibson has been building a religious retreat in Malibu for some time.

Holy Family is a Catholic church that isn’t recognized by any archdiocese. Instead, it follows beliefs counter to the 1965 Vatican II Conference, which among other things, absolved Jews of Christ’s death. Instead, Holy Family Catholic Church adheres to 16th century Catholic values.

Click Here to Visit the Mel Gibson Celebrity Center.

According to a September tax filing obtained by this column, Gibson put $8 million more into his A.P. Reilly Foundation in 2005. That’s the tax-exempt entity named for his late mother and designed to run his privately built and owned Holy Family Catholic Church in Malibu.

The most recent filing is just a registration and doesn’t contain line items. Gibson, according to a source at the California Department of Justice, is late filing his annual tax forms for A.P. Reilly. But the registration indicates revenues in 2005 of a little over $8 million, bringing Holy Family’s assets to $22 million. That’s not bad for a church with just 70 members.

This is a sizeable jump from 2004, when the foundation’s assets were listed at just over $14 million. Gibson’s 2005 contribution was substantially larger, too, since in 2004 he donated $5 million. The big upswing seems due to profits from “The Passion of the Christ,” the hit movie that Gibson financed.

The A.P. Reilly Foundation, according to public records, started buying property in Malibu in 1977, when it purchased a 9-acre plot for $51,000.

The actual location is 30188 W. Mulholland Highway, between Sierra Creek and Kanan roads in Agoura Hills, Calif., abutting Malibu. It is now assessed at $231,000.

Gibson bought 3.5 more acres with a 2,900 square foot building on Mulholland Highway in 1980 for $75,000 using a $10,000 mortgage. In 2004, the assessed value of the land was put at $1,307,475.00. All of that property was considered residential.

But in 1999, A.P. Reilly Foundation bought another parcel of land, for $1,394,545.00, at the same address, from a New Age religious group called the Aquarian Educational Group (they’ve since relocated to Houston as the Saraydarian Institute).

In a 2002 quit claim filing, Reilly listed the use of that property as “religious” and “residential.”

Today, Gibson releases his new movie, “Apocalypto,” which Gibson also financed himself. Disney is said to have put up up to $25 million to promote and distribute the movie.

But if "Apocalypto" turns out to be a surprise hit, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see some of its profits dumped into the tax-free A.P. Reilly Foundation for use at Holy Family.

When I visited Holy Family last February, much of the facility on Mullholland Highway in Malibu was under construction. But the main chapel was completed. It’s a simple structure, built of expensive stone and marble.

Before I was shooed off the property, I was able to see a lot of construction going on. Neighbors are speculating that Gibson is building a compound that would house parishioners as well.

Grammy Songs: Best Samples?

Should they rename the Best Song category Best Sample? Or just Best Steal?

It used to be that the Grammy Award for Best Song meant something: it was an original song.

But this year, Mary J. Blige’s “Be Without You” was inexplicably chosen as a nominee. Only one problem. Anyone with ears can tell that the chorus, in which the title is sung, is stolen from the melody of Patti LaBelle’s “Love, Need and Want You.”

That song, written by Kenny Gamble and Bunny Sigler, has already been sampled widely in the past. But now it’s going to the Grammys as if it were new and someone else’s. Yikes.

Ironically, LaBelle gets no money for this. As a performer, no matter how many times a hip-hop artist makes away with one of her hits, unless LaBelle wrote it, she comes up empty. Gamble and Sigler, meantime, wrote a great song with “Love, Need and Want You.” Too bad they won’t get credit at the Grammys.

And this sampling — er, stealing — goes on continually. As I’ve written before, both John Legend and John Mayer are now nominated for singing songs they didn’t write. Mayer's song "Waiting for the World to Change" is a blatant rip-off of the late Curtis Mayfield, sung in the legend’s style. It’s shameless.

Legend at least had the good sense to credit Buddy Buie when he ripped off “Stormy” for his hit, “Save Room.” On the liner notes, Legend says he heard the organ track — famous all over the world — and didn’t know it, so he used it anyway. That used to be called plagiarism. Buie now gets 50 percent of “Save Room” royalties in perpetuity.

I’ve no doubt there are other current examples. Luckily, Kanye West got no Grammy nominations this year for his “Late Registration” album. The whole thing was one large buffet of sampling, stealing and appropriation. There was nothing original about it, and the Grammy committees obviously knew it.

Oscar Buzz: 'Scandal' Sings, 'Factory' Made

We’re starting to put together the actual list of potential Oscar nominees, but there are still a few stragglers coming in.

Definite additions: Judi Dench in lead and Cate Blanchett in supporting for “Notes on a Scandal.” This searing drama, directed by Richard Eyre, could also be a Best Picture nominee. It’s perfect from top to bottom. Bill Nighy is also memorable as Cate’s cuckolded husband. Just great work from all three. It also solves the Blanchett problem, since her appearance in “The Good German” is not going to do much for her. ...

Guy Pearce is best known from three quirky movies: “L.A. Confidential,” “Memento” and “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.” But this year his ship has come in.

As Andy Warhol in “Factory Girl,” Pearce is utterly mesmerizing. The movie will be a late entry on Dec. 29, but there is no denying Pearce an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. It’s already a crowded category, what with Eddie Murphy ("Dreamgirls"), Adam Beach ("Flags of Our Fathers"), Freddy Rodriguez ("Bobby"), Michael Pena ("World Trade Center") and Chazz Palminteri ("A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints") all in the running. But Pearce is a lock. He’s a sensation!

'High Fidelity': Now a Broadway Hit

You know Nick Hornby’s terrific comic novel “High Fidelity” and its movie version, directed by Stephen Frears and starring John Cusack.

Now, after a bumpy ride in Boston, the stage musical opened on Broadway last night. Alec Baldwin, Lauren Bacall and various Broadway illuminati were in the audience.

Walter Bobbie directed it, and Amanda Green and Tom Kidd wrote the songs. The stars are largely known, including Will Chase in the lead as Rob, the slacker who owns the record store and has lost his girlfriend (played by Jenn Collella).

I don’t know Hornby, but when I read his book nine years ago, I instantly identified with it. Although the record store in High Fidelity was set in London, the author and I are the same age.

When I was 21, in 1978, the New York venues for a similar story were Bleecker Bob’s on West 3rd St. and Rocks in Your Head on Prince St.

The employees were like Yodas about music, and the music — still then very much on vinyl and imported from the UK — was received with a religious fervor. It was quite a time. (I still have all my colored vinyl, rare record sleeves and singles with messages scratched into the inner groove.)

"High Fidelity" is set about a decade later, but it still covers the same atmosphere. In the musical, which I could not have loved more, the production has created a set inspired by Bleecker Bob’s.

It’s wonderfully authentic, right down to the posters and stickers. All it was missing was Bleecker Bob’s growling dog or the iconoclastic proprietor himself.

Every bit of the musical is right, from its staging to casting to its songs. Chase, who starred as John Lennon last year in the ill-fated Broadway musical, is a revelation. He’s in almost every scene, and thanks to Kidd’s ingenious score, must sing several different kinds of pop genre songs. He handles it all with aplomb and charm, as does the rest of the talented cast.

Green, who wrote the lyrics to the witty songs, is the daughter of the late legendary Broadway wordsmith Adolph Green. Her songs are sophisticated and fun. Some verge on parody, others are simply a hoot. They all reflect the spirit of a life devoted to rock music not as kitsch but as vocation. To say that she and Kidd got it is an understatement.

Bobbie, a Broadway vet, was smart to go back to the novel and not to the movie of 'High Fidelity.'

Unlike "The Color Purple," which slavishly recreates its movie in the first act of the musical, "High Fidelity" feels fresh and newly imagined.

Bobbie comes up with some wonderful, brilliant stuff, new ways to tell the story and let it make sense — and be sympathetic — for a theater audience. He deserves incredible accolades.

As one audience member said to me during the intermission, with a grin: “This is the straight guy’s musical.”

He was right. Will "High Fidelity" play beyond a few performances? I sure hope so. Broadway needs more shows like “High Fidelity” desperately. Get your tickets immediately. The humming has already begun.