Another screen added

Mao's Last Dancer is a Houston hit

Mao's Last Dancer is a Houston hit

Mao's Last Dancer may be the little movie that could.

The film that details former Houston Ballet star Li Cunxin's amazing life was a winner at the box office last weekend. While no Inception, it drew one of the biggest responses ever at the venerable River Oaks Theatre, with advance online ticket sales exceeding 50 percent capacity. The previous leader in advance ticket sales was Brokeback Mountain, at 2.6 percent capacity.

Samuel Goldwyn Films and ATO Pictures are so pleased with the Houston response that they have added another screen at Cinemark at Market Street in The Woodlands. Nationwide, they have doubled the number of screens showing the movie to 70.

To become breakout hits, small films like Dancer have to be nutured. They depend on word of mouth for success.

Besides the gripping story of Li's journey from rural China to ballet greatness in Texas and Australia, the movie is fun for Houstonians to watch and note various locales. Exteriors of Miller Outdoor Theater and the Wortham Theater Center figure prominently in the movie, although other exteriors and most of the interiors were shot in Australia — hence Li's apartment is in a "hilly" section of Houston and the Chinese consulate looks nothing like the Montrose building.

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Chi Cao as Li Cunxin and Camilla Vergotis as Mary McKendry in "Mao's Last Dancer"
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Bruce Greenwood, left, as Ben Stevenson and Camilla Vergotis as Mary McKendry. Greenwood steals the movie with his portrayal of Stevenson.