Bleecker Street Cinemas

144 Bleecker Street,
New York, NY 10012

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Ben Davis
Ben Davis on March 24, 2017 at 11:33 am

The Bleecker Street Cinema is one of the repertory movie theaters of the past that is highlighted in my recently published book, “Repertory Movie Theaters of New York City: Havens for Revivals, Indies and the Avant-Garde, 1960-1994.” It’s listed on Amazon and

miclup on August 29, 2011 at 9:49 pm

This was not a great theater by any stretch and the bathrooms were always scary, but the programming—sublime!! It was like attending film school only more thorough. That’s how staggering it was. Films only ran for 2 days, sometimes 3, and everything was a double feature. That’s 6 different moves a week! It was a living, breathing Netflix. I am so glad I got to experience this period of film going and the Bleecker Street Cinema was the best of the best. And I’ll never forget the fake painted balustrade along the front of the theater. If you want to see this place in action, watch DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN. The Aidan Quinn character is the projectionist here.

Willburg145 on June 13, 2011 at 11:51 am

I visited this theater during its ‘porn’ period.
I will never forget going to the bathroom and it was really scary. I thought it was just me but another patron said that it was scary up there.
I felt very uneasy there and left.

smallchange on May 29, 2011 at 6:43 pm

Here is a link to a 1935 Berenice Abbott photo of 144 Bleecker St. Except for the awning, the street level looks much like the BSC of the 1960’s.

In the mid-sixties, every intermission featured a screening of Stan VanDerBeek’s NO SMOKING, and a selection of soundtracks. Here is a log of the intermission music tape as of 1966, with film and selection:

Part I

JULES AND JIM – Le Tourbillon CLEO FROM 5 TO 7 – Sans Toi NIGHTS OF CABIRIA – Cabiria JULES AND JIM – Générique CITIZEN KANE – Charlie Kane GATES OF PARIS (PORTE DES LILAS) – Au bois de mon coeur MON ONCLE – Theme

Part II


Part III


Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 16, 2011 at 2:45 pm

An ad for “COME BACK, AFRICA”;

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Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 24, 2010 at 6:38 pm

The Agee Room opened in November 1980. It became the Bleecker 2 by 1985.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 22, 2010 at 2:09 pm

So was it ever BLEEKER instead of BLEECKER?

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pamelajfk on January 7, 2010 at 7:22 pm

I am interested in any information that might be available regarding an early screening of the Zapruder film at the Bleecker in late November/early December 1964. It was shown following the David Wolper film 1000 Days.

genegregorits on August 16, 2009 at 4:27 pm

I co-managed the Kim’s Video Underground store at 144 Bleecker from 1998 until 2000. Being too young to have frequented the Bleecker Street Cinema, it was nice to at least inhabit the same space. I was at that time putting together a book of New York “scum history” (underground film, music, crime, drug culture, etc) and in my interviews for this book I frequently heard brief anecdotes about the BSC. I often wondered what the legendary cinema was like inside…I’ve only ever seen a single photo…and the general experience of seeing a film there was something I sorely regretted missing out on. Hearing all of these stories makes me want to re-open my boxes of notes and files collected for this book.

Of course, Kim’s Video Underground has a colorful history all its own. During my 2+ years as an employee, I came to be on a first name basis with countless Kim’s regulars, all of whom shared a deep affection for the store. The reputation of the store’s clerks as disrespectful film school punks may be well-founded, but I don’t think too many customers got that impression from the Underground / 144 location of the chain. We were all generally pleasant to deal with, although the odor of alcohol or marijuana in the general area of the rental counter was not unusual. I had the key to the store, and on many nights, after closing Kim’s, I would sleep off a heavy drunk in the store’s dingy basement stairwell, one of its more memorable characteristics. (Anyone over 5'5" had to be very careful entering that dank little vortex of a store.) In the morning, I’d dust myself off, and re-open for another day of business as usual on Bleecker Street. It was a great and horrible time….and it’s the only job I’ve ever missed. The news of its closing was absolutely devastating to me.

Out of hundreds, if not thousands of crazy stories, the one that seems to dominate is the fungal infestation of the “Pee Wee Room”, a cavernous sub-basement at the store’s rear where the porno rentals were displayed. Around the summer of 1999, mold spores somehow reminiscent of the facehugger eggs from the ALIEN films began to sprout from the cum-spattered, water damaged, cheaply tiled floor. These spores reached sizes in excess of three feet, and ranged from lime green to burnt sienna in color. The room was closed by the order of NYC HEALTH AND SAFETY, and I believe Mr. Kim was fined. Eventually, the room re-opened. I had many nightmares about these spores, and probably will again tonight. Of course, the store was infested with mice and large “Palmetto” roaches.

I’ll also never forget about the time Yongman Kim took me out for lunch at his favorite Village-area Korean restaurant…but I’ll spare you.

One last thing….I hope this post isn’t out of place. I couldn’t find any sort of forum or thread devoted to the old Kim’s store….this page is the closest thing to it, I believe. What they’ve done to that classic entrance and its facade is very much in keeping with the widespread destruction of downtown NY’s cultural landmarks over the last 5 years. Still, it came as a brutal shock. Truly the end of a magical era. As another Kim’s fan pointed out, “it shines brighter in memory”…I only wish there was a proper website constructed in the memory of both the Bleecker Street Cinema and Kim’s Video Underground. Both were extremely important to film culture….in NYC and beyond.

Marytee on May 13, 2009 at 9:54 pm

Hey Rudy! I remember you, and see you now and then on PBS. I enjoyed your comments about the Bleecker Street Cinema. You may remember that I worked for Lionel and Jimmy, primarily to open “Good Times…”, later in production and distribution. There about ‘64 to '68 when Marshall trained Ted to be his assistant. Now, Ted’s wife Jessica and I both live in the same town in Northern California. She’s looking for a print of Warren’s “Ted and Jessica”. Tonight, winnowing papers, a letter from Lionel got me started and I’m glad, as I see now there’s a site of and about him. Many memories of those days and nights at the BSC live within me, happily. Want to trade stories? Write to me. Mary Kelly

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on February 15, 2009 at 8:49 pm

al pettiford, I don’t believe Lorenzo was making a political commentary. I believe he was referring to the marketing “sexappeal” of Obama vs., for example, Joe Biden.

It would not matter how many marketing dollars you threw out at “DOUBT” or “THE SEVENTH SEAL”, they would never come to close to “THE DARK KNIGHT” at the box office.

As anyone who has worked in a movie theatre can tell you, everyone asks for health foods and then buy buttered popcorn, Cokes and chocolate bars while the healthy snacks go out of date.

alps on February 15, 2009 at 8:03 pm

Where was the media saturation for films such as the Seven Samurai, Seventh Seal, 400 Blows? These films found an audience, and went on to become great works of cinematic art. I love the Film Forum, but the filmgoing patrons are changing. Two years ago, I attended a screening of my favorite Woody Allen film, Manhattan, with a new 35mm print. The film was ruined for me, some misguided parent, who should have known better, took about four teenage boys, who sat in front of me. Two of the boys played with their cell phone and video game the whole time, I was detracted by the light of their “toys”. Also, too many hipster doofuses are showing up there and laughing at everything, and putting their feet on the chairs. I do not know what President Obama has to do with this, are you talking about our Senate? Iraq war, patroit act? I live in Pennsylvania, we had a bitter nasty primary. The best thing to come out of it was Mr. Obama’s speech on race. This is a site for the love of cinemas not Fox News.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on February 15, 2009 at 3:56 pm

..and on the eve of the Academy Awards, the number one film in America (and so far this year) is a remake of “FRIDAY THE 13TH”.

LorenzoRodriguez on February 15, 2009 at 3:35 pm

To: Gerald

During the late 80s the smallish James Agee Room (Bleecker #2) had a 3 tier 35mm platter. The 16mm shared the Bleecker #1 booth with the two 35mm machines/changeovers/6000 ft. reels, etc The larger Bleecker #1 had the best 16mm throw I have ever seen, an utterly perfect image. Eraserhead traumatized the potheads! We had patrons who called up just to find out the film gauge. If it was 16mm they showed up no matter what the title.

To: Edward

I never said anything about New Yorkers and cinephiles. I said “most folks”. Here is some perspective:

Drugstore Cowboy was the first bonafide hit at the Angelika. We sold out every show, day and night, in our two biggest auditoriums. If you stood in the lobby of the Angelika on one of those days, you could think there is a lot of money to be made with those kinds of movies and art cinemas are cash cows. Where was Drugstore Cowboy ranked in total box office for 1989? Answer: Not even in the top 100. (4 sequels in the top ten.) Batman was #1. Holy Mass Marketing! Twenty years later,
Batman is still #1.

If you went to a big commercial movie complex like Lincoln Square or Union Square and asked every one on line at the box, “Do you think it’s important for every big city to have an independent movie theater as well as a big multiplexes like this?” Pretty much everyone would say “O yes, of course!” How many of those folks would actually go see a movie at the Film Forum? Here is a sign:

A few years ago I managed a multiplex in Brooklyn. I wanted our staff of nice kids to have a good range of movie references. I placed a Film Forum calendar by the time clock. I told every staff person I could get them in for free because the GM at FF was an old friend of mine from Bleecker days. I told every one I would reimburse them for roundtrip subway fare for each Film Forum ticket stub they showed me. I circled in red ink movies it seemed they would find especially exciting and amusing. I reminded them the Film Forum played lots of new movies with cutting edge sensibilities they could relate to. For at least 4 months, I dutifully posted every new calendar as soon as it was available. Finally, having seen no ticket stubs, I went around the theater in between showtimes on a Saturday night and casually asked every one if they had seen any movies at FF and forgotten to get their subway fare reimbursement. The total number of staff members who seriously thought of going to the Film Forum…ZERO.

We have been talking about New York City where there is an above average number of persons who are well educated and have disposable income, yet, the Film Forum, with huge grants, huge donations, devoted patrons and excellent programming, is still in financial trouble. (Since before the current so called bad economy.)

Outside of NYC, there are major metropolitan areas and many medium size cities which have no independent cinema at all. Hundreds of worthwhile movies are relegated to the movie patron’s solitary confinement of television watching.

There are plenty of persons on this website who go see all kinds of movies in all kinds of venues, but we are terribly out numbered. One of the main reasons for this is the conflux of mass marketing, advertising, and public relations that is impossible for simpletons to resist. The mainstream endorses and anoints. Here is the ultimate example provided by a frame of reference we can all relate to regardless of our geographical location.

I would say of all the men and women in the U.S. Senate who deserved to be president Obama was near the bottom of the list. Yet, he was moved into position, he was elected, and his inauguration was treated more like a coronation. This is precisely the same kind of media saturation used by Hollywood to pummel even perceptive folks in to endorsing a movie/candidate. I am reminded of a wonderfull quote from a great American.

R. Buckminster Fuller:
“There is nothing more pathetic than the role that has to be played by the President of the United States whose power is approximately…ZERO.”

The public relations experts can create any perception for any purpose especially when there is a lot of money at stake like who controls our government and what individuals Americans are thinking about…such as Batman and Barack, not Darwin and Bakunin.

Edward Havens
Edward Havens on February 12, 2009 at 4:03 am

To answer UFO two and a half years later…

I never got the chance to go to the Bleecker Street Cinemas. Being Los Angeles born and bred, what I knew about New York City in the 1970s and 1980s came from watching Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese movies. When I finally did move to New York City in 2001, the theatre was long gone, although I did make a pilgrimage to the site the day after I moved in to my crappy little railroad apartment in Bed-Stuy, and I learned a bit more about the theatre from “Toxic Avenger” director Lloyd Kaufman from the years I worked for him at Troma.

And to touch on something LorenzoRodriguez said in 2007…

I don’t think New Yorkers cinephiles mindlessly line up at the zooplex. For the four years I lived in New York City (Brooklyn 2001-2003, Yorkville 2003-2005), I would regularly go to BAM or Film Forum or Cinema Village or the Quad and see packed houses for revival titles, documentaries, avant-garde, indie and foreign films. I would walk around the neighborhood with my wife and see good crowds going to the UA East 85th for the types of movies that wouldn’t play at the Orpheum 7 or the East 86th around the corner.

I honestly think a theatre like the Bleecker could exist today, provided it was operated by a movie lover with very deep pockets. Theatres like the Bleecker closed not because the audiences abandoned them, but because the greed of the people who owned the buildings that housed the theatres who would jack up the rents for the theatre to a price that no longer made economical sense to continue operating. It’s what happened to the Bleecker eighteen years ago, it’s what happened to the Two Boots Pioneer Theatre eighteen weeks ago.

edblank on August 24, 2008 at 6:44 am

At least one screen of the three-screen Film Forum is always devoted to revivals.

nhu on August 23, 2008 at 5:29 pm

Are there any “revival” theaters left in Manhattan or anywhere else in NYC?

meryl on July 2, 2008 at 7:11 pm

I was one of the managers in 1976 – 1977, and during that time the Bleecker had a different double feature every day!

hardbop on July 2, 2008 at 12:43 pm

I have seen different closing dates for this film in the Times, but I think it closed on September 2, 1991.

edblank on May 27, 2008 at 6:32 pm

Was this one of the theaters that published a schedule regularly, as Film Forum does now, or did films run open-ended? I was in there just once or twice in the late 1960s.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on May 9, 2008 at 10:41 am

The Agee Screening Room, as it was called, was equipped for 16mm showings only.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on May 9, 2008 at 9:17 am

In 1984 screen two was briefly advertised as the Agee.

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br91975 on December 18, 2007 at 3:54 pm

Someone else, I don’t know who, Al, ran the Bleecker as a move-over house for foreign and indie flicks (and the occasional, low-budget first-run film) for a brief time in 1991, before the space’s days as a movie theatre officially came to an end.