the story about how much the producers of mad hot ballroom had to pay for music rights caused quite a furor, but i think some people took an unfortunate focus on the total cost ($140,000) and portrayed that as the outrageous figure. considering the film, through last weekend, grossed over $2 million (and easily looks headed over $3 million), i’m not sure i find that figure ridiculous at all.

it’s the details of the story that are maddening, like trying to get a license for a kid singing the single line “everybody dance now” or emi asking for $10,000 to license the rocky ring tone that the documentary filmmakers happened to catch or having to worry about billboards and frito lay trucks. and here it’s the producers that are part of the problem: by failing to stand up for their fair use rights, they brought the cost upon themselves.

but the endeavor appears to have paid off: mad hot ballroom is already in the top 25 top-grossing documentaries since 1982, and looks poised to make it into the top 20 at least.

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