By Indiewire | Indiewire May 18, 2005 at 2:0AM
Paramount Classics' Slamdance '05 Doc "Mad Hot Ballroom" Dances Atop the Specialty Box office
by Brian Brooks
Paramount Classics' heartwarming doc about New York City schoolchildren learning to ballroom dance, "Mad Hot Ballroom," waltzed to the lead of the specialty box office over the weekend, commanding a spectacular bow in limited release. Tartan Films and TLA Releasing's "Mysterious Skin" maintained momentum in second place on the chart, as calculated on a per screen basis, at its on NYC location, while Cinema Guild's "A Tout de Suite" also carried momentum in its limited run. Other weekend openers, including Sony Classics' "Layer Cake," Wellspring's "Kings & Queen," TLA Releasing's "Ma Mere," and THINKFilm's "Tell Them Who You Are" also opened in the top tier, but with varying degrees of initial theatrical thrust.
Marilyn Agrelo's "Mad Hot Ballroom" debuted at a pair of locations over the weekend, giving the Slamdance 2005 award-winning doc the lead in the iW BOT with a $22,674 per screen average, grossing $45,348. "The opening weekend exceeded our expectations, we never imagined that the per screen average would top films like 'Spellbound' and 'Super Size Me,'" Paramount Classics co-president David Dinerstein told indieWIRE by email Tuesday. "The exit polls are the highest I have seen in a very long time [with] 96% of the audience rating the film 'excellent,' while 97% said they would 'definitely recommend' the film to a friend." "Spellbound" debuted to sold-out audiences in May, 2003 at New York's Film Forum with a $17,508 per screen average, while "Super Size Me" opened at 41 locations in May, 2004 with a $12,601 average.
"Mad Hot Ballroom" brought out an array of audiences according to Dinerstein, attracting a diverse age range as well as a sizeable Latino audience. "The audience was a diverse as they come," said Dinerstein. "The film appealed to people across the board, from the 18 to 49 specialized moviegoer, to parents attending with their eight to 16 year-old kids [in addition to] senior citizens looking for an alternative to the Hollywood special effects film. ['Ballroom'] attracted a large Hispanic audience as well."
"Despite all the hell that is happening in the world today, [I think] the film reaffirms humanity," said Ruth Vitale, in France for the Cannes Film Festival, by telephone Wednesday morning. "In 2005, [the amount of] innocence and exuberance that these kids embrace in this [ballroom dancing] program, right in New York City, and despite the poverty [some of them] live in, gives one hope for this world." Paramount Classics will open the film in the top 10 markets by Memorial Day, and will be in theaters across the U.S. by the July 4th holiday weekend.
In other debuts, Sony Classics opened "Layer Cake" at 81 locations, taking in $81,706 ($8,171 average) and a fourth placement on the chart, while Wellspring's "Kings & Queen" debuted on two screens with an $8,051 average ($16,101 gross) and a fifth place iW BOT showing. "Ma Mere" from TLA Releasing also debuted at two sites, grossing $10,334 ($5,167 average), while "Tell Them Who Your Are" from THINKFilm played one screen with $4,060.
Overall, the weekend iW BOT average climbed about 7% over a week ago to $1,483 on a combined gross of over $2.54 million on 1,714 screens with 77 specialty titles included in the list. Last week, 89 titles screened at 2,771 sites, grossing $3.56 million with a $1,386 average. The overall specialty revenue decline reflected a drop in "Kung Fu Hustle," which has represented a significant proportion of the iW BOT gross since its opening. Last week, "Kung Fu Hustle" grossed $501,981 on 347 screens, again, the biggest single amount on the chart, averaging $1447, a 9% increase from the previous week, although the film played 557 fewer screens.
"Sex, Politics & Cocktails" from Regent Releasing is among this week's limited number of specialty releases.