By Brendan Swift

Last year's dance epic Mao's Last Dancer will be released in the US on August 6 by Samuel Goldwyn Films.

The inspirational true-life story of dancer Li Cunxin, directed by Bruce Beresford and produced by Jane Scott, was the highest grossing film at the local box office last year. Its $15.44 million gross ranks it as the 12th biggest local film of all time.

Mao's Last Dancer took second place at last year's Toronto International Film Festival's Audience Award behind Precious before it went on to win the Audience Award at the 2009 Sao Paulo Film Festival in Brazil.

Mao's Last Dancer is a hauntingly beautiful film with universal appeal that I’ve been thinking about nonstop since Toronto," Samuel Goldwyn Films chairman and CEO Sam Goldwyn Jr. said in a statement.

The film has previously been sold to 15 territories including Canada, Germany and Japan. It is also currently screening in New Zealand, where it has taken $NZ1.15 million at the box office in just three weeks.

Samuel Goldwyn Films vice president of acquisitions Peter Goldwyn negotiated the US deal with Hengameh Panahi of Celluloid Dreams.

Producer Jane Scott said Samuel Goldwyn Films is already underway with a series of test screenings for the film which will help determine the release strategy. "We all agree that the film has broad emotional appeal," she said.

Goldwyn's recent slate of films includes romantic comedy Priceless, the Penélope Cruz and Ben Kingsley vehicle Elegy and the box office hit Fireproof.

Other recent US distribution release deals for Australian films include local thriller The Square (April 9) and western Red Hill. Local vampire film Daybreakers was released on more than 2,500 screens in January while Jane Campion's Bright Star was shown on 380 screens last September.

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