AHC Press Release

Searching for Mr. Rugoff



Tour To Include Screenings of Ira Deutchman’s Documentary Feature
“Searching for Mr. Rugoff,” an Exhibit from the University of Michigan’s Archive, and Personal Appearances.

January 21, 2020

It was announced today by the Art House Convergence and the University of Michigan, in conjunction with Deutchman Company Inc, that they would jointly be presenting a national tour of art houses to bring attention to efforts to preserve art film and independent film history through the efforts of the University of Michigan’s Mavericks and Makers Archive. The tour will include screenings of Ira Deutchman’s “Searching for Mr. Rugoff” which recently premiered at the DOC NYC festival, receiving strong early critical notice.

The announcement was made at the Convergence’s annual conference, which is currently taking place in Midway, Utah.

The film is the story of Donald Rugoff, who was the crazy genius behind Cinema 5, the mid-century theater chain and film distribution company. Rugoff was a difficult (some would say impossible) person but was also the man who kicked art films into the mainstream with outrageous marketing schemes and pure bluster. Rugoff’s impact on cinema culture in the United States is inestimable, and his influence on the art film business—from the studio classics divisions to the independent film movement to the rise of the “Indiewood”—is undeniable. He was easily one of the most important figures in the film business in his time, and yet mysteriously he has become a virtually forgotten figure. The story is told through the eyes of former employee Deutchman, who sets out to find the truth about the man who had such a major impact on his life, and to understand how such an important figure could have disappeared so completely.

The exhibit, which is designed to be displayed in art house theater lobbies or galleries, was created by students at the University of Michigan from Deutchman’s archive which was donated to the University in 2017. It was first exhibited at a Symposium that was held in conjunction with the 2017 Cinetopia Film Festival, and traces Deutchman’s career in marketing and distributing independent films from his time working for Rugoff, to his acceptance of the first Spotlight Lifetime Achievement Award at the Art House Convergence in 2017.

The plan is to tour the film to theaters affiliated with the Convergence, along with either selected portions or the full exhibit, and with the option of personal appearances or Skype Q&As by Deutchman.

Russ Collins, the Founder of the Art House Convergence said , ”Festival audiences have truly loved Ira’s fascinating documentary. The Art House Convergence hopes art houses theaters nationwide, will select this unique and highly personal programming opportunity. It will interest and educate their audiences about the fascinating history of the wild and wooly art house scene in the 1960s and the flawed man and now nearly forgotten cinema legend at the center of it.”

Ira Deutchman added, “I couldn’t be more flattered that the Convergence and the University of Michigan have chosen to use my film to educate people about the history of art films in America. In addition to wanting the film to be entertaining, I’ve always hoped that it would serve as a reminder that getting audiences for art films has never been easy, and that it takes commitment, a lot of cleverness and perhaps a bit of craziness to overcome that. I hope that audiences find it inspiring.”

After the film’s premiere Variety called the film “an enthralling documentary that movie buffs everywhere will want to see (it feels, in its insidery way, as essential as any chapter of “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls” or “Pictures at a Revolution”), Indiewire called it “A loving and kaleidoscopic portrait” and The Independent said ““Searching for Mr. Rugoff” is the beating heart of this 10th annual DOC NYC. Every filmmaker lucky enough to have a feature or short showing here—from the very youngest film student and intern to Oscar-winner Barbara Kopple—will want to hunker down in this one, taking notes and viewing what’s up on the big screen with appreciation and maybe even awe.”

Details about pricing and availability are still being worked out and will be coordinated with the eventual theatrical distribution plan for the film.

For more information and pricing, contact info (at) mrrugoff.com.