Mad Hot Ballroom was the second highest grossing documentary in 2005 after March of the Penguins. As of February 7, 2012 it had earned over $8.1 million, making it the sixteenth-highest-grossing documentary film in the United States.
Eleven-year-old New York City public school kids journey into the world of ballroom dancing and reveal pieces of themselves and their world along the way. Told from their candid, sometimes hilarious perspectives, these kids are transformed, from reluctant participants to determined competitors, from typical urban kids to "ladies and gentlemen," on their way to try to compete in the final citywide competition. Providing unique insight into the incredible cultural diversity that is New York City, this film profiles several kids from three schools (out of 60) at this dynamic age, when becoming that "cool" teenager vies for position with familiar innocence, while they learn the merengue, rumba, tango, the foxtrot and swing.
Note: All cast members appear as themselves since this film is a documentary.
- Heather Berman
- Emma Therese Biegacki
- Eva Carrozza
- Evangelina Carrozzo
- Paul Daggett
- Graciela Daniele (Judge)
- Pierre Dulaine (Organizer and MC of the Final Dance Competition)
- Tara Devon Gallagher
- Madeleine Hackney
The documentary premiered at the 2005 Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah and was purchased by Paramount Classics and Nickelodeon Movies. It had a limited theatrical release in around 202 theaters across United States on May 13, 2005.
Mad Hot Ballroom received mostly positive reviews from critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a "Certified Fresh" rating of 84% based on 116 reviews, with and average score of 7.1/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "This heartwarming documentary will win audiences over, as the sheer charm of precocious, enthusiastic children learning to dance resonates from the screen." Metacritic gave the film a score of 71/100 based on 32 reviews, indicating "Generally favorable reviews".
- This film was the first and, to date, the only film produced by Nickelodeon Movies to be a documentary.
- This is the first theatrical Nickelodeon film to be officially released only on DVD. Although the next one, Yours, Mine & Ours, will have one last VHS release. However, a VHS release of this film was released, but only as demo tape which does not count as an official release.
- This is also the first theatrical Nickelodeon film to only have a "Widescreen" format and not a "Fullscreen" one too (not counting the demo VHS release of it).
- The film was also the studio's first film to receive a limited release in select theaters in the United States.
- This film was distributed by Paramount Pictures' art-house film division, Paramount Classics (now known as Paramount Vantage).
- Cinematographer, Claudia Raschke, held the camera at stomach level to keep it in line with the children's faces.
- The three schools that the film follows are: PS 150 from the affluent Tribeca area; PS 112 from the primarily Italian and Asian area of Bensonhurst; and PS 115 from Washington Heights, a Dominican neighborhood where over 97% of the residents live below the poverty line.