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Paramount hopes ‘Dreamgirls’ delivers

But will expansion hurt or help?

Paramount and DreamWorks’ gamble to kick off bigscreen musical “Dreamgirls” in an unusual “roadshow” format paid off handsomely last weekend. But will such pumped-up numbers continue once the pic expands to 800 screens on Christmas Day?

Roadshow, priced at $25, saw sellouts for all 21 of its unspoolings at theaters in Gotham, Los Angeles and San Francisco last weekend. With the higher ticket prices, formula resulted in a ballooned per-playdate average of $120,000 and a total take of $360,000 for the studio.

Concept proved so popular that Gotham’s Ziegfeld requested additional runs, as the pic was playing only twice daily. But Paramount and DreamWorks refused: The roadshow concept was used to build word of mouth for a national release, not simply to ramp up B.O. numbers.

But even with the roadshow’s success, the partners aren’t expecting such larger-than-life returns when the pic opens on Christmas.

“This was based on a (legit) model,” said DreamWorks marketing guru Terry Press of the roadshow concept, which was inspired in part by similar premium offerings at Hollywood’s El Capitan cinema. “It was organic and meant to drive word of mouth.”

A Par spokeswoman added the markets for the roadshow were “hand-chosen for (auds) that have a special affinity for this movie.”

“You can’t read Cincinnati based on these markets,” she said.

But even if the film’s initial weekend follows the lead of the roadshow’s impressive run, “Dreamgirls” will need to expand beyond its core aud to make any B.O. dreams come true.

Other studio pics with limited releases have posted bank-breaking numbers, only to meet with a largely uninterested general public once they expanded.

Last year, Sony rolled out “Memoirs of a Geisha” on just eight screens to seduce per-playdate returns of $85,313.

But when the film expanded three weeks later to 1,547 engagements, its per-playdate number plunged to $4,364. Pic wound up limping to just over $57 million and a loss for the studio.

So far, “Dreamgirls” is tracking most strongly with women over 25. That can be a tough demo to capture heading into Christmas, when women are prepping for the holiday rather than hitting the multiplexes.

But with Christmas behind them, femmes could be drawn en masse as the musical goes up against more macho fare, from “Rocky Balboa” to “We Are Marshall” and “The Good Shepherd.”

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