ATO enters the distribution game

Dave Matthews’ New York-based ATO Pictures officially entered the distribution game this weekend.

The company, along with distrib partner Samuel Goldwyn Films, launched Bruce Beresford’s latest “Mao’s Last Dancer,” which earned a solid $199,657 on 33 screens in 10 U.S. markets. Pic scored a per-screen average of $6,050.

“Mao’s,” which is based on an autobiography by Li Cunxin, performed well in markets including Honolulu and Houston, where part of the film is based. Pic tells the story of a Chinese ballet dancer plucked from poverty at the age of 11, who becomes a principal dancer with both the Houston and Australian ballets.

Samuel Goldwyn and ATO teamed on marketing with publishing company Penguin, which re-released a movie tie-in book on July 31. The partnership involved online book clubs and social networking platforms that promoted the book in some of the film’s debut markets.

“Mao’s” broke box office records in Oz and screened at several film festivals last year, including Toronto.

ATO, which stands for Art Takes Over, also the name of Matthews’ music company, could be a welcome addition to the dwindling ranks of indie distribs.

The company plans to release four to six films a year, both inhouse productions and acquisitions.

According to Johnathan Dorfman, co-founder of ATO, he and Matthews were a huge fans of “Mao’s.”

“One of our philosophies when greenlighting films is that it has to be a unanimous decision,” Dorfman said.

In addition to “Mao’s,” ATO plans to release one more film this year, which it will announce in the coming weeks.

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