Bleecker Street finds success in films aimed toward older audience

Movies are a lot like wine. You can buy the cheap, mass-produced stuff and be satisfied for the moment, only to remember nothing later, or do a little more digging for the more quality, curated stuff and be able to recall what your first taste was like in painstaking detail.

Maybe that was a stretch, but there is definitely a clear divide between your “Transformers” popcorn-munchers and your “Godfathers” or “Schindler’s Lists.” Where one end just lets you escape for two hours, the other fully transports you, and leaves you feeling changed or with a new perspective afterwards.

Bleecker Street, a young indie distributor, is looking to release this level of high-caliber films that satisfy your movie palette, much like how a fine wine would leave you as opposed to slapping the bag all night long.

Andrew Karpen, former co-CEO of Focus Features, the major indie distributor behind titles such as “Dallas Buyers Club” and “The Theory of Everything,” formed Bleecker Street in 2014 after Focus Features moved main operations from New York to Los Angeles. His initial goal was to release a handful of thought provoking indie films each year, the type of films he calls “smart-house.” They mix the highbrow artistic rigor of indie films with the entertainment factor and big name draw of more traditional box office fare.

A growing library of consistently smart, high-quality dramas was the result. Notable releases include “Beasts of No Nation,” and the Academy Award-nominated “Trumbo” and “Captain Fantastic.” Starring Idris Elba, Bryan Cranston and Viggo Mortensen, respectively, these films hold an average rating of 83 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Bleecker releases their films on a platform basis, meaning that the number of theatres they’re released in grows over time upon receiving positive word of mouth. This method drives the prestige of the Bleecker Street label while the films maintain their indie status, becoming sought after titles by movie aficionados. If you want a thought-provoking film, the Bleecker Street label can assure that for you with their curated library.

It’s this strategy combined with the often adult-oriented themes that builds the Bleecker Street brand. Where A24 is the quirky and experimental distributor of our generation, Bleecker Street is finding success in being traditional. At a time when other adult-aimed indie distributors are struggling, such as the Weinstein Company, Bleecker Street is looking ahead to a strong year.

Currently in a handful of theaters and hitting screens fast is “The Last Word,” starring the legendary Shirley MacLaine beside Amanda Seyfried. And April 14 sees the release of “The Lost City of Z,” based on the true story of an explorer obsessed with discovering the Amazon until the obsession, and the jungle, consumes him.

Also, out in June is “Meagan Leavey” which I’m most excited for. “Leavey” is based on the true story of a Marine corporal and the bond she shares with her combat dog, Rex. This also marks “Blackfish” director Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s dramatic film debut. If there’s one thing I love more than saving the whales, it’s dogs. Count me in.

If the usual mindless blockbuster fare bores you, consider catching a Bleecker Street release, and also a bottle of the good stuff — no Franzia — to go with it.

Lilly Stuecklen is a junior television, radio and film major. Her column appears weekly in Pulp. She can be reached on Twitter @Stuecks or by email at


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