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Bleecker Street Signs Multi-Year Deal with Universal

Bleecker Street Signs Multi-Year Deal with Universal

Independent film distributor Bleecker Street and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment have inked a multi-year output deal in which UPHE will handle all marketing, sales and home video and VOD release services for Bleecker Street films in the U.S. The announcement was made jointly today by UPHE President Eddie Cunningham and Bleecker Street CEO Andrew Karpen, who earlier this week sealed a Canadian distribution deal with Elevation.

Bleecker Street looks to fill the specialty market void left when Peter Schlessel took over Universal specialty label Focus with a more genre-focus in mind. Karpen is looking for both limited and wide releases, and is willing to use multiple avenues to reach audiences, whether theatrical day-and-date, although he still believes in the traditional theatrical model, according to a source close to the company. Bleecker is looking for a mix of acquisitions and co-productions, and has no plans to form a foreign sales component, but will use existing companies. 

There is a gap to fill in the marketplace, with so many films available for domestic distribution. And Karpen has enough financial backing to create the company he wants. Bleecker Street is financed by Manoj Bhargava, founder of 5-hour Energy with support from Graham Taylor and Liesl Copland of WME Global. 

Read: New Bleecker Street Comes Into Focus on TIFF Opening Day. 

The Universal deal kicks off with the release of writer-turned-director Dan Fogelman’s “Danny Collins,” starring Al Pacino, Annette Bening, Jennifer Garner, Bobby Cannavale and Christopher Plummer, which opens in select cities on March 20, 2015. It’s one of three high-profile films backed by Bhargava via an output U.S. distribution deal with Shivani Rawat’s ShivHans Pictures. They all boast strong casts: Jay Roach biopic “Trumbo,” starring Bryan Cranston, Helen Mirren, Diane Lane, and Elle Fanning; and Matt Ross’s “Captain Fantastic,” starring Viggo Mortensen, Frank Langella, Kathryn Hahn, Missi Pyle, and Steve Zahn.

We’ll also see Bleecker’s TIFF 2014 pickup of Edward Zwick’s highly awaited “Pawn Sacrifice” starring Tobey Maguire as Bobby Fischer.

Not surprisingly, Karpen has tapped ex-Focus execs for his staff, including distribution chief Jack Foley as President of Distribution, Myles Bender as President of Marketing & Creative Advertising, Tyler DiNapoli as President of Marketing, Media & Research and Kent Sanderson as President of Acquisitions & Ancillary Distribution. 

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