Summer sleeper success for 'Step Up'

By Martin A. Grove
The Hollywood Reporter
August 16, 2006

"Step" story:
With the summer's tentpole pictures having already made their impact in the marketplace, August is traditionally a good month for sleeper hits to find their audience.

A case in point is Touchstone Pictures and Summit Entertainment's teen dance film "Step Up," which kicked off in second place last weekend via Disney to a much better than expected $20.7 million ($8,374 per theater). Clearly, Disney's marketing efforts, which made major use of MySpace.com, plus the Summit production's strong teen appeal proved to be a very effective combination. "Step" did quite well, by the way, Monday, placing second with a strong $2.7 million that was right the $2.9 million for "Talladega Nights."

"Step" marks the feature directorial debut for choreographer Anne Fletcher, whose credits include the hits "Bring It On" and "The 40 Year Old Virgin." Its screenplay was written by Duane Adler, co-writer of "Save the Last Dance," and Melissa Rosenberg, whose credits include writing many episodes of "The O.C."

Produced by Patrick Wachsberger (Summit's president and CEO), Erik Feig (Summit's president of production and acquisitions), Adam Shankman (another former choreographer who made his directorial debut with "The Wedding Planner") and Jennifer Gibgot (producer of "The Wedding Planner" and "She's All That"), it was executive produced by Bob Hayward, David Garrett and John H. Starke. "Step," which features an extensive soundtrack of hits, stars Channing Tatum ("She's the Man") and Jenna Dewan ("The Grudge 2").

Summer is once again proving to be a very good season for Summit's Wachsberger and Feig. A year ago they enjoyed blockbuster success with "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" from Summit, New Regency and 20th Century Fox, grossing over $186 million domestically and nearly $292 million internationally. I was happy to have the opportunity to catch up with them Sunday to talk about the making of "Step Up" just as the good news was circulating about how well it had opened.

"The tracking was telling us that the movie was going to open between $10 million and $12 million," Wachsberger pointed out.

"What's really fascinating and I think the reason that our numbers were so high," Feig explained, "is that for this audience we were an event movie. We may not have been an event movie in the kind of four quadrant typical parlance (of Hollywood marketers), but for this youth audience there was extreme rabid interest in seeing the movie. One thing that we've also been gratified about is that the exit scores for the movie are fantastic, especially in our strong (teen) demographic. If you go on the Internet, which is the place that kind of created that hotbed of interest for the movie in the beginning on our MySpace page, a great campaign that Disney put together, (you see that) the fans love the movie. You see multiple, multiple postings of people who have gone to see the movie now already at least twice in this weekend and can't wait to see it again next weekend. So it really connected with its audience."
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