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New Buyer Bleecker Street Comes Into Focus on TIFF Opening Day

New Buyer Bleecker Street Comes Into Focus on TIFF Opening Day

Ahead of the Toronto International Film Festival, Andrew Karpen, former Co-CEO of Focus Features, is adding staff to new distribution company Bleecker Street to be based in New York City. CEO Karpen will scout new films at this year’s TIFF; he plans to release 3-5 pictures in 2015 and more as time goes on. 

Karpen 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. 

Not surprisingly, Karpen is tapping 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. 

“I’m thrilled to be working with some of the most talented people in the film industry,” said Karpen.  “Jack, Myles, Tyler and Kent each bring different skills and abilities to the table, but they all share my love of great films.”

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. 

So far the company slate includes 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; writer-turned-director Dan Fogelman’s “Danny Collins” starring Al Pacino, Annette Bening, Jennifer Garner, Bobby Cannavale and Christopher Plummer; and Matt Ross’s “Captain Fantastic,” starring Viggo Mortensen, Frank Langella, Kathryn Hahn, Missi Pyle, and Steve Zahn.

Karpen joined Focus as COO in 2002, was promoted to President in 2006 and later elevated to Co-CEO in 2012. Focus released such Academy Award-winners as “Dallas Buyers Club,””Milk,” “Atonement,” “Beginners,” and specialty hits such as “The Place Beyond the Pines,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” “Coraline,” “ParaNorman” and “The Kids Are All Right.”  
Foley is a 30-year distribution veteran at USA Films, October Films, MGM, Miramax and Columbia Pictures, working on over 150 films. Bender started off at Gramercy Pictures and USA Films and joined Focus Features at its launch in 2002, where he became SVP of Creative Advertising and Marketing. DiNapoli joins Bleecker Street after overseeing Marketing for exhibitor Bow Tie Cinemas and also managed local advertising and marketing at Focus, after learning the ropes at Miramax and ad agency Terry Hines & Associates.
Sanderson, who served as Executive Vice President, Distribution and Merchandising of Amplify, where he managed their ancillary channels and worked to acquire Terry Gilliam’s “The Zero Theorem” and “The Better Angels,” produced by Terrence Malick. Before joining Amplify, he worked at Focus in acquisitions and digital distribution.
RJ Millard’s Obscured Pictures’ will handle corporate and film publicity. The former VP of Publicity at Focus Features, was SVP of Publicity & Marketing at Samuel Goldywn Films/IDP and was the Press Officer for the Sundance Film Festival.

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