Bleecker Street Cinemas

144 Bleecker Street,
New York, NY 10012

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Bleecker Street Cinemas

Viewing: Photo | Street View

One of the landmark Greenwich Village theatres played the offbeat films long before anyone involved with the Angelika was even born. Run for many years by Sid Geffen and Jackie Raynal who also had the Carniege Hall Cinema. The second screen called the Agee Room was added around 1982 and was very tiny.

The theatre went through a soap opera like ownership struggle near its end with three parties fighting for the space. The theatre ended it’s life as a porno theatre and then when the neighborhood complained had a very short stint again showing moveover art films, until it was gutted for retail space.

Contributed by RobertR

Recent comments (view all 71 comments)

Marytee
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

genegregorits
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.

pamelajfk
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.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on January 22, 2010 at 2:09 pm

So was it ever BLEEKER instead of BLEECKER?

View link

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on January 24, 2010 at 6:38 pm

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

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on January 16, 2011 at 2:45 pm

An ad for “COME BACK, AFRICA”;

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smallchange
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. http://www.flickr.com/photos/nypl/3110619012/

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

SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER – Charlie
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

AND GOD CREATED WOMAN – Dis-moi quelque chose de gentil BOCCACCIO ‘70 – Bevete più latte SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER – Rencontre UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG – Devant le Magasin LA GRANDE OLIMPIADE – Theme TOUCH OF EVIL – Borderline Montuna BLACK ORPHEUS – Samba de Orpheu A VERY PRIVATE AFFAIR (VIE PRIVÉE) – Sidonie STOWAWAY IN THE SKY (LE VOYAGE EN BALLON) – Theme JULIET OF THE SPIRITS – Theme

Part III

THE 400 BLOWS – Theme CONTEMPT – Camille’s Theme THE GIRL WITH THE GOLDEN EYES – excerpt THE ISLAND (ÖN) – Water Theme BLOOD AND ROSES (ET MOURIR DE PLAISIR) – Carmilla and Leopoldo MAGNET OF DOOM (L'AÎNÉ DES FERCHAUX) – Maudet and Ferchaux BAY OF ANGELS (LA BAIE DES ANGES) – Theme THE MATING URGE – Kandy Wedding L'AMERIQUE INSOLITE – Les delinquants

Willburg145
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.

miclup
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.

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