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'Mambo' hopes to make it mainstream

September 15, 2003|Robert W. Welkos

With the popularity of shows such as NBC's "Will & Grace," HBO's "Six Feet Under" and Bravo's "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," gay-themed TV programming would appear to have crossed over to mainstream heterosexual audiences. But can a low-budget, independent, gay-themed film made by French Canadians that features only one actor who is recognizable to American audiences (Paul Sorvino) tap into this same groundswell of public interest?

The folks at Samuel Goldwyn Films are betting on it. The company has launched a strong marketing campaign for "Mambo Italiano" in advance of its U.S. release Friday in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. The film is also getting one of the widest-ever release schedules for an independent, gay-themed movie.

"We'll be out with 50 prints," said Michael Silberman, president of IDP Distribution, which does the marketing for Goldwyn. "That total doesn't sound like a lot, when compared to studio films like 'The Birdcage,' but in the indie world, where 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch' opened on eight or 10 prints, it's a lot.... Our goal is to bring this film to 500 screens in a very short period of time."

"We are not only targeting the gay population, but we are going after the mainstream population as well," Silberman said, with an emphasis on women 35 and older.

Based on a play by Steve Galluccio, who co-wrote the screenplay with director Emile Gaudreault, "Mambo Italiano" is a comedy about a wildly dysfunctional immigrant family in the mold of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." Sorvino and Ginette Reno play the Old World father and mother whose lives are thrown into chaos when they discover their grown son, Angelo (Luke Kirby), and old family friend and respected cop (Peter Miller) are more than roommates.

-- Robert W. Welkos

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