‘Apocalypto’ falling into obscurity

Mayans take fall

While the holidays boosted specialty titles like “Letters From Iwo Jima” and “Babel,” Mel Gibson’s holdover “Apocalypto” seemed stuck in neutral, after generating surprising heat in its debut three weekends ago.

“Apocalypto” isn’t a family-friendly pic that plays well with Christmas auds: Going up against holiday fare with subtitles and ultraviolent content may not have been a savvy programming move.

Extended four-day weekend gave Disney’s “Apocalypto” another $3.9 million, from 2,144 engagements, for a weak per-playdate average of $1,860. Its cume stands at $35.7 million.

Given the budget (an estimated $70 million) and potential overseas and in ancillaries, it could wind up OK. While the results are a far cry from the boffo “The Passion of the Christ,” the Mayan pic has at least survived; after Gibson’s arrest, many forecast the film would be dead on arrival.

Disney’s PR and marketing staff successfully distanced the pic from its helmer’s off-screen controversies, helping the pic to land the top spot on its Dec. 8 opening weekend.

But it seems now that only Gibson’s core audience came out en masse for the subtitled Mayan epic. It’s had a much tougher time drawing general auds in subsequent frames.

“Apocalypto” bowed to more than $15 million, topping the Leonardo DiCaprio vehicle “Blood Diamond” and Nancy Meyers’ “The Holiday” (which also have had a tough time keeping their B.O. up.)

In its second frame, “Apocalypto” slipped into sixth position as its B.O. slipped 46.6%. Receipts dipped another 50% over the four-day Christmas frame as the pic dropped out of the top 10 altogether.

It remains to be seen whether “Apocalypto” can get any traction from awards buzz, which buoyed a few limited releases over the Christmas frame.

Clint Eastwood’s “Letters From Iwo Jima” posted a six-day take of $162,350 off five screens for Warners, making for a healthy per-playdate average of $32,470. Pic has consistently been making critics’ best-of lists, and Warners is taking a slow approach after precursor “Flags of Our Fathers” failed to catch on in wide release.

Paramount Vantage’s “Babel” also continues to enjoy a boost from Golden Globes noms and critical attention. Pic added another $118,434 on Christmas Day to bring its cume to just under $19 million. Pic is still playing in 207 engagements.

Miramax’s Peter O’Toole starrer “Venus,” meanwhile, played to $54,000 over the four-day frame for a solid per-screen average of more than $18,000 off three. Cume now stands at $59,800 after it opened mid-week.

Miramax’s “The Queen” raised its cume to $26.6 million by adding $577,000 from 302 engagements.

Sony Classics also got off to a good start with its “Curse of the Golden Flower.” Pic opened Thursday and has so far cumed $724,369 off 60.

Specialty division’s “Volver” has so far taken in $3.8 million after eight weeks in release.