Jean-Michel Basquiat in DOWNTOWN 81 Resurfaces in Remastered and Digitally Restored Debut

Music Box Films and Submarine Deluxe Present:




Revisit NYC’s Downtown Scene Circa 1981 with Indie Cult Classic Starring Renowned Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and featuring Debbie Harry, Fab Five Freddy, Arto Lindsay, Kid Creole and the Coconuts and More!

Featuring Music By Blondie, DNA, The Plastics and Others

“Jam-packed with riveting performances by some of the hottest underground Gotham bands of the early ’80s, “Downtown 81? is an extraordinary real-life snapshot of hip, arty, clubland Manhattan in the post-punk era.” -Variety
“Basquiat is a joy to watch. He floats through the movie with cool grace and unflagging energy.”
– ArtForum
“Gives us a glimpse of the city as it was, suggesting that there was something revolutionary,
even inspiring, about those days of not-so yore.” – Chicago Tribune


A film by Edo Bertoglio
A film by Edo Bertoglio


For some it would be hard to imagine New York City before Starbucks’ inhabited every street corner, but in 1981 the streets of downtown Manhattan were occupied by abandoned buildings, drug dealers, prostitutes, strip clubs and porn shops. Hidden among the ruins of these pre-Giuliani streets was an underground scene bubbling with new music, new talent, new art and new expression all merging into one powerful force of energy.


Into the middle of this cultural explosion comes the documentary-style film Downtown 81 (aka New York Beat Movie), an imaginative, fantastical drama shot circa 1981, featuring at-the-time obscure artists poised for fame such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Debbie Harry, Fab Five Freddy and Lee Quinones to name a few. Not only does Downtown 81 present an electric synergy between modern art, hip-hop and new wave music, it also provides a looking glass into an historic frame of New York City’s cultural storyboard.


Music Box Films and Submarine Deluxe are excited to present Downtown 81, digitally re-masteredand releasing on digital platforms for the first time ever June 24, 2014.


Downtown 81 immediately introduces audiences to a young artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat, 19-years old and prior to his discovery by Andy Warhol, a struggling hipster artist wandering the streets of Alphabet City on the hunt for funds to avoid eviction. With a painting in tow, he travels through downtown nightclubs, happening parties and underground joints while encountering painters, models, junkies, graffiti artists, rappers and rockers along the way — not to mention a fairy tale princess disguised as a bag lady (Blondie’s Debbie Harry), among many other familiar cameos.


Originally titled New York Beat Movie, the narrative feature Downtown 81 was written and co-produced by well-known writer Glenn O’Brien, who was once a member of Andy Warhol’s Factory, editor of Interview magazine, an influential music critic columnist, and the host of “TV Party” a local NYC public program. With O’Brien’s influence, Downtown 81 is styled to present an almost romanticized version of the energized fusion of art and music which permeated the streets at that time.


Downtown 81 features an eclectic soundtrack with music by Blondie, DNA, Tuxedomoon, The Plastics, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, James White and the Blacks, Gray, Liquid Liquid, Walter Steding, John Lurie, Marvin Pontiac, Lydia Lunch, Suicide and Melle Mel.


DNA was recorded live at Vanguard Studios. Tuxedomoon was recorded live at Blank Tapes Studios. The live club performances were recorded on location using the RCA 24 track mobile unit.


Nearly 20 years in the making and originally filmed by Swiss photographer Edo Bertoglio on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1981, the film was not actually completed until 2000, two years after Basquiat’s untimely death. Now, 14 years later, Downtown 81 has been re-mastered and restored by Submarine Deluxe for its special digital debut on June 24, 2014.


For more information on Downtown 81, please visit:




Downtown 81 – Synopsis


Starring the legendary American painter, graffiti artist, poet and musician Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988), DOWNTOWN 81 is both a post-modernist fairytale and a vivid depiction of the downtown New York art and music scene in the early 1980s. The film chronicles a day in the life of a 19 year-old starving artist (Basquiat) who must raise money to reclaim the apartment from which he has been evicted. Hoping to sell a painting to earn the rent, he wanders the downtown streets, painting in hand, encountering painters, models, junkies, graffiti artists, rappers and rockers whose lives and performances provide a slice of life from one of the most exciting periods in American culture.


A “lost” film, shot in 1981 but not completed and released until two decades later, DOWNTOWN 81 not only captures one of the twentieth century’s most interesting and lively artists in Basquiat, but also features music from many of leading musical artists of the era including Kid Creole and the Coconuts, Tuxedomoon, The Plastics, James White and the Blacks, The Lounge Lizards, and DNA.





Music Box Films is a leading distributor of international, American independent, and documentary content in North America.



Recent releases include Roger Michell’s LE WEEK-END, written by Hanif Kureishi and starring Jim Broadbent, and Pawel Pawlikowski’s IDA, winner of the FIPRESCI Prize at the Toronto International Film Festival. Upcoming releases include five-time Academy Award® nominee Jan Troell’s THE LAST SENTENCE and Jan Ole Gerster’s German smash hit A COFFEE IN BERLIN (released in Germany as OH BOY), which swept the German Oscars in 2013.


Music Box Films is independently owned and operated by the Southport Music Box Corporation, which also owns and operates The Music Box Theatre, Chicago’s premiere venue for independent and foreign films.





Music Box Films Home Entertainment / Submarine Deluxe

DIGITAL DEBUT:              June 24, 2014

Director:                                Edo Bertoglio

Screenwriter:    Glenn O’Brien

Director of Photography: John McNulty

Cast:                                           Jean Michel Basquiat, Deborah Harry, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, James White and the Blacks, DNA, Tuxedo Moon, the Plastics, and Walter Steding and the Dragon People

Soundtrack:                          Blondie, DNA, Tuxedomoon, The Plastics, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, James White and the Blacks, Gray, Liquid Liquid, Walter Steding, John Lurie, Marvin Pontiac, Lydia Lunch, Suicide and Melle Mel

Running Time:                   72 minutes

Sound Format:                    Dolby Digital 5.1

Rating:                                      NR



[Spider_Single_Video track=”4″ theme_id=”1″ priority=”0″]

Related Post