44-Year-Old Indie Film Distributor Is Closing
By BEN SISARIO
New Yorker Films, the distributor that helped introduce American moviegoers to the works of Bernardo Bertolucci, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Ousmane Sembène, announced on Monday that it was going out of business after 44 years.
One of the most influential distributors of foreign and independent films, New Yorker has amassed a library of more than 400 titles, including Jean-Luc Godard’s “Breathless” and Claude Lanzmann’s epic Holocaust documentary “Shoah,” said Dan Talbot, who founded the company in 1965.
Mr. Talbot, 82, said in a telephone interview that the company was going out of business because its library was being sold. It had been pledged as collateral on a loan taken out by its former owner, Madstone Films, which bought New Yorker Films in 2002.
The library could be auctioned off as early as next week, he added.
New Yorker Films held rights to distribute movies to theaters and to institutions like colleges, and also to release DVDs.
Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, the specialty-film multiplex on the Upper West Side that Mr. Talbot owns, is unaffected by the travails of New Yorker Films.
For more than four decades Mr. Talbot has been one of the most prominent figures in art-house cinema in New York and the United States, controlling not only New Yorker Films but also several theaters (including the New Yorker Theater, now defunct, an important revival house at Broadway and 88th Street).
“Without a doubt it was the pre-eminent distributor of foreign art films in the United States from the mid-1960s really into the ’80s,” J. Hoberman, the senior film critic of The Village Voice, said of New Yorker Films. “And for much of the time he was the only game in town.”
The company’s comes at a troubled time for independent film companies. Last year, several of the big studios shuttered or downsized their specialty divisions. Warner Brothers, for example, closed Warner Independent Pictures and Picturehouse.
Mr. Talbot said he was crushed by the end of the company. “I nurtured this,” he said. “These films are like babies.”
But the next film on the New Yorker docket, “Fados,” will open on schedule at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas on March 6, he said.
“I bought that film with my own money,” Mr. Talbot said.