Copious Notes

‘American Animals’ movie about Transy book heist on video now, DVD soon

Jared Abrahamson, Evan Peters, Blake Jenner and Barry Keoghan appear in “American Animals” by Bart Layton, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.
Jared Abrahamson, Evan Peters, Blake Jenner and Barry Keoghan appear in “American Animals” by Bart Layton, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute

You can now watch “American Animals,” the movie about the Transylvania University rare book heist, at home, if you are willing to pony up to own the streaming version of the flick.

The movie, which hit theaters in June, is now available on platforms such as Amazon Prime Video and iTunes to own for $14.99. Folks who want to rent the movie or get a hard copy on DVD or Blu-ray, will have to wait a couple more weeks for its release on those platforms Aug. 28.

The movie tells the story of how four college students from Lexington — Spencer Reinhard, Warren Lipka, Eric Borsuk and Chas Allen —plotted to steal rare books worth millions of dollars from the Transylvania University special collections library. The four were caught after trying to sell the books to Christie’s Auction House in New York, convicted and served seven-year prison sentences.

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British documentary director Bart Layton said he became interested in the story because, coming from middle to upper-middle class backgrounds, the young men did not fit the profile of people who usually committed these sorts of crimes.

While the movie is a drama, with actors playing all the characters, the real perpetrators appear in the movie sharing their recollections of the events, as well as librarian B.J. Gooch, who was restrained and assaulted during the robbery.

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Special collections librarian BJ Gooch recounts the story of two thieves attacking her to steal parts of the special collections at Transylvania University's library. The story was the feature of the film American Animals, directed by Bart Layton.

The movie opened in New York and Los Angeles June 1 and expanded across the country subsequent weeks, opening in Lexington June 22. According to the movie business website Box Office Mojo, it earned $2,834,835 in a little more than 10 weeks of release, playing in a maximum of 339 theaters. (For comparison, the top movie “American Animals” opening weekend, “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” earned $213,304,279 playing on a maximum of 4,381 screens, though “American Animals” was never intended to contend with the blockbusters.)

While far from a blockbuster, “American Animals” did get generally good reviews. On the movie ratings site Rotten Tomatoes, it had an 86 percent rating (Certified Fresh) from critics and 90 percent favorable rating from audiences.

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