Stepping Out is a 1991 musical-comedy film directed by Lewis Gilbert, starring Liza Minnelli, written by Richard Harris and based on a play also written by Harris. Minnelli plays the role of a has-been Broadway performer who gives tap lesson to a group of misfits who, through their dance classes, bond and realize what they can achieve. Written by
Your dreams are just a step away
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Bev Mahon, the well-known (in film circles) owner of the equally well-known Varsity Theatre in Des Moines, Iowa, was so interested in booking this film he began negotiations with Paramount in March 1991, as the film was originally slated to open the next month. When the movie came and went in October 1991, Mahon stuck to his guns and booked it for his Christmas release that year. With his customary, individualized, savvy marketing (Mahon used only portions of Paramount's ad campaign and essentially wrote his own), the movie was a surprise smash at the Varsity, where it eventually ran for an incredible ten weeks. Mahon wanted to run it indefinitely (he ran "Doctor Zhivago" in 1965 for 50 weeks), but Paramount needed his print for another engagement. Since Paramount had only made eight prints of the picture, Mahon had no choice but to end the engagement, but Mahon was able to coerce the studio to allow him to keep "Stepping Out" for a final two weeks, since it had done so well, which he promoted quite heavily. You can see Mahons' savvy ad campaign on the Varsity website (google Varsity Theatre Des Moines) if you go to the website's "History" page and click on "newspaper ads", scroll down to the bottom of the page under the "Enchanted April" ad, and click on "More Newspaper ads and the 'Stepping Out' story. The story is a fascinating example of what might have happened to this film if Paramount had gotten behind it intelligently. It's also a rather sad story, as Liza Minnelli, as of December 2014, has never made another major Hollywood film, much less a musical one, which, it must be said, is everyone's loss. Still, the ten-week, well-attended engagement at the Varsity does exist as some of vindication for this overlooked gem, a fabulous mash-up of "Rocky" and "A Chorus Line." See more