SEARCHING FOR MR. RUGOFF
Evangeline Peterson, Don Rugoff’s first wife, went back to school after her marriage ended and had a career as a psychoanalyst. She currently lives in Medford, OR, and would still like to write that book about her life with Don.
Ed Rugoff, the elder son of Don Rugoff and Evangeline, began his career in film as a producer and screenwriter of feature films for such major studios as Paramount, Fox, Disney, New Line and MGM. He is currently Executive Vice President and General Manager of EDO Inc., an analytics marketing company for creative professionals.
Ralph Rugoff, the younger son of Don Rugoff and Evangeline, has been director of London’s Hayward Gallery since 2006, and is curator of 58th Venice Biennale, 2019. He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to art in the 2019 Birthday Honours.
FORMER CINEMA 5 EMPLOYEES AND AFFILIATES
Peter Broderick consulted for Rugoff on film acquisitions for Cinema 5 in the 1970s. He later spearheaded one of the first production companies to experiment with digital production as President of Next Wave Films, and helped launch the careers of such directors as Christopher Nolan and Amir Bar-Lev. Today, as President of Paradigm Consulting, Broderick consults with filmmakers on independent film marketing, and gives keynotes and presentations to emerging filmmakers around the world.
Bea Brydson worked in administration and accounting at Cinema 5 in the 1970s. She went on to serve as a freelance bookkeeper for a number of small independent film distribution companies.
Susan (Gary) Cathart was “the voice of Cinema 5,” responsible for the voiceovers for many of the company’s radio spots and trailers—most notably, Pumping Iron.
Jean Donnelly created and led the non-theatrical division at Cinema 5 in the early ‘70s. She says that “working at Cinema 5 was great training for her current career as a psychologist in private practice in New York.”
Jim Hudson, CFO during Rugoff’s reign, coined the phrase “Critical acclaim exceeded box office results.” He went on to a long career at Pacific Theaters and then served as CFO of United Cerebral Palsy of Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
Mary Kay Kammer’s first job in the movie business was in advertising and publicity at Brotman & Sherman Theatres, a small Chicago movie theatre chain that included the city’s “art” theatres. She was lured to New York by Rugoff in 1975 to head up the coop advertising department. After a year, she returned to Chicago to continue her work in movie advertising for John Iltis Associates, eventually becoming a Vice President.
Steve Kutner launched his 50-year career in the film business as Head Film Buyer for Rugoff’s Cinema 5 theaters in the 1960’s. He later served in executive positions at several companies, including Columbia Pictures, MGM/UA, Playboy Enterprises and SelecTV, and became a pioneer in the build-out of the Pay Per View and Video on Demand businesses.
Warren Lieberfarb began his film career in the 1960’s as Rugoff’s assistant. Over the next 50 years, he held executive positions at Paramount, 20th Century Fox and Warner Brothers. Perhaps his most significant achievement is his universally acknowledged role as the architect of the DVD; he holds eleven patents in connection with the technology and, among other honors, is a member of the Consumer Electronics Industry Association’s Hall of Fame.
Brian Lindquist got a job at Cinema 5 right out of college in the mid ‘70s, at first in the non-theatrical department; he later moved into coop advertising when the person in that job had a nervous breakdown. Brian was one of the employees who had to dress up in costume to promote Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). He later worked in marketing and as a production executive at Columbia Pictures, Universal Pictures and HBO.
Ted Pedas is a legendary exhibitor and independent film distributor based in Washington, DC. He and his brother, Jim, founded the Circle Theater chain, with initial advice and booking services from Don Rugoff. They became investors in Cinema 5, and Ted served as a Board member from 1973-1978, during which time he also took an active role in film acquisitions for the company. After Cinema 5, the Pedas brothers formed Circle Releasing Corporation with Ben Barenholtz, and went on to distribute and/or produce dozens of films, including Joel and Ethan Coen’s Blood Simple (1984), Raising Arizona (1987), Miller’s Crossing (1990) and Barton Fink (1991), as well as Robert M. Young’s Caught (1996), and Aviva Kempner’s documentary feature film, The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (1998).
Ruth Robbins joined Cinema 5 in 1972. As director of non-theatrical distribution, she worked closely with Don Rugoff on distribution and acquisition and had the opportunity to see him at his best and worst. She remained at Cinema 5 for several years after Rugoff was ousted and subsequently worked at several other distribution companies, handling independent foreign and American feature films. Before retiring in 2016, Ruth was associate publisher of Metro Parent Magazine in metropolitan Detroit. She currently lives on a sailboat and cruises the eastern seaboard from New England to the Bahamas.
Paula Silver began her successful marketing career at Cinema 5 in the advertising department. She went on to several high-profile marketing positions, as President of Global Marketing at Columbia Pictures and as marketing consultant at The Walt Disney Company, before founding her own company, Beyond the Box Productions. Today, her company focuses on marketing socially conscious entertainment properties to audiences all over the world.
Gary Springer was a college student when his father and Rugoff publicist, John Springer, recruited him to dress up in costume to help promote Monty Python and the Holy Grail, fulfilling one of Rugoff’s more outrageous marketing ideas. After a short but successful career as an actor, Springer went on to start his own New York-based public relations firm, which continues to handle both independent and major studio films.
Bill Thompson has been in the theatrical film business for the last 44 years, working in both exhibition and distribution. Starting with 20th Century Fox in Washington, DC, he came to New York in 1978 to work for Don Rugoff at Cinema 5. When RKO acquired Cinema 5 the following year, Thompson switched to the film-buying side, working for Walter Reade, Cineplex Odeon and City Cinemas. In the 1990’s, he worked mainly in distribution, with stints at Miramax, Gramercy, Lot 47, Newmarket, Picturehouse, Apparition, Film District and, more recently, Cohen Media Group. Today he has his own firm, Thompson Film Consulting.
John Willis designed lavish window displays for films at many of Don Rugoff’s premiere Cinema 5 theaters during the 1970s and continued through the 1980’s at City Cinemas and other New York theater chains. Fortunately, he kept a significant library of photos of the many displays he designed. He is now retired and lives outside of London.
FILMMAKERS OF CINEMA 5 FILMS
Bruce Brown was the director of the surfing documentary Endless Summer (1966) and the motorcycle documentary On Any Sunday (1971), both of which were distributed by Cinema 5. The two films, along with several other surfing-themed docs that he made, continue to enjoy massive cult followings. In 2009, Brown was inducted into the Surfers’ Hall of Fame in Huntington Beach, CA, for the indelible mark he left on surf culture. Brown passed away in 2017 at the age of 80.
Robert Downey, Sr. began writing and directing basement-budgeted, absurdist films in 1960. Putney Swope, released in 1969, was the first Downey-directed film to earn a mainstream release, thanks to Don Rugoff, and earned a place among New York Magazine’s Top 10 Films of the year. He continued writing/directing several features, including the irreverent Pound (1990) and Greaser’s Palace (1972), another Cinema 5 release. Downey has also appeared on screen in such films such as Boogie Nights, Magnolia and The Family Man.
Costa-Gavras is an award-winning Greek director who has been living and working in France since the 1960’s. He first became known on the world stage when Don Rugoff distributed his political thriller Z (1969), which was a box office smash and one of the earliest foreign language films to be nominated for multiple Oscars, including Best Picture. It won two of them—for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Editing. Rugoff later financed and distributed Costa-Gavras’ follow-up film State of Siege (1972). Among Costa-Gavras’ other films were the Hollywood thriller Missing, with Sissy Spacek and Jack Lemmon. He served as President of the Cinémathèque Française from 1982 to 1987, and resumed his post in2007, which he continues to hold to this day. His most recent film, Adults in the Room, premiered at the 2019 Venice Film Festival.
Jerome Gary was one of the producers of Pumping Iron, which earned an Academy Award nomination in 1977 for Best Documentary and launched the career of the then unknown Arnold Schwarzenegger. Rugoff’s distribution of that film led to a close relationship between he and Gary, which led to Gary holding the title of Head of Production at Cinema 5 for a short period in the late ‘70s. Today Gary is chairman of Visionaire Media and the MENA Media Fund, which, in association with the US Department of State, invests in media in the Middle East and North Africa.
John Goldstone developed a fruitful collaboration with the British comedy group, Monty Python, producing their most famous films throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Thanks to Rugoff’s unconventional marketing strategies, Monty Python and The Holy Grail was released in 1975 to considerable fanfare in NYC and went on to become a cult classic. In 1990, Goldstone secured funding from 20th Century Fox to establish The Comedy House, to continue promoting British comedic talent at home and abroad. Goldstone currently lives in Southern California; his most recent film was a documentary about the Pythons.
Sarah Kernochan is a filmmaker, author, playwright and musician. She achieved early success at the age of 27 when her film Marjoe was picked up for distribution by Cinema 5 and went on to grab the Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary. She won a second Oscar in 2002, this time for her 40-minute short, Thoth. Kernochan also wrote and directed the feature film All I Wanna Do, which was produced by Ira Deutchman. Other screenplays by Kernochan include Sommersby, Impromptu, and 9-1/2 Weeks. In addition to her filmmaking, Kernochan has written two novels and an original musical, “Sleeparound Town.” She has also released several albums, for which she is lyricist and performer. Her blog, “At Home with a Ghost,” is an ongoing chronicle of her lifelong encounters with ghosts and spirits.
Bill Marshall, a Scottish-born Canadian producer, is best known as one of the founders of The Toronto International Film Festival, and as its first Director, from 1976 to 1979. Recognized as a pioneer in the Canadian film industry, Marshall spearheaded many visionary initiatives throughout his career, including the foundation of the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television and the Toronto Film & Television Office. In 1977, he produced Outrageous, which was released by Cinema 5 and became one of the first LGBT-themed films to receive wide theatrical distribution in North America. Marshall passed away in 2017 at the age of 77.
Lina Wertmüller, a legendary Italian director who came up through the ranks as Federico Fellini’s Assistant Director, has created a large body of work that has drawn both accolades and controversy. After several of her early films flopped in the U.S., Rugoff acquired Swept Away and later Seven Beauties, both of which established her as a major director. The success of those two films led to re-releases of her earlier films; at one point, four of her films were playing simultaneously in theaters around the country. She became the first woman ever nominated for the Oscar for Best Director for Seven Beauties in 1977 and received an honorary lifetime achievement award from the Motion Picture Academy in 2019.
FILM BUSINESS FIGURES
Annette Insdorf is Professor of Film at Columbia University’s School of the Arts, and moderator of the popular “Reel Pieces” series at Manhattan’s 92Y. She is the author of Double Lives, Second Chances: The Cinema of Krzysztof Kieslowski; Francois Truffaut; Philip Kaufman, and the landmark study, Indelible Shadows: Film and the Holocaust. Her latest book is Cinematic Overtures: How to Read Opening Scenes.
Nat Chediak is considered the “Dean of Film Exhibitors” in South Florida. In addition to having created some of the region’s most prominent and successful art house cinemas, he was the founder of the Miami Film Festival, where he served as Director for eighteen years. He is also the author of Diccionario de Jazz Latino, and a three-time Grammy and three-time Latin Grammy music producer.
Harlan Jacobson is a long-time film journalist, starting at Variety, where he covered the New York film scene during the period when Don Rugoff was struggling to hold on to his company, Cinema 5. Jacobson went on to become the Editor of Film Comment, and wrote for many other publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and others. He now runs a program called Talk Cinema, which features screenings and talk-backs of new films at theaters around the country.
Larry Kardish had a 44-year career at the Museum of Modern Art, rising to become Senior Curator of Film in 1999. During that time, he launched new programs and curated some 60 exhibitions annually at the museum. He is currently the Co-Artistic Director of Film Columbia, a festival held in Chatham, NY.
Todd McCarthy is mostly known as a film critic, but he has also worked in film marketing and has directed several documentaries about the film business. He was Chief Film Critic for Variety for 31 years, and currently holds that position for The Hollywood Reporter.
Gary Meyer is considered one of the leading exhibitors of independent and art films in the United States. He is best known for having been one of the founders of Landmark Theaters, and later one of the Directors of the Telluride Film Festival. He remains a constant presence at film festivals and a source of enormous knowledge that he shares with new and existing art house theaters. He also currently publishes an on-line magazine called “Eat Drink Films.”
Richard Peña was Program Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Director of the New York Film Festival from 1988 to 2012. He became known for expanding the purview of the festival beyond the Eurocentric, devoting major film series to African, Chinese, Cuban, Polish, Hungarian, Arab, Korean, Japanese Soviet and Argentine cinema. Peña has been teaching at the School of The Arts at Columbia University since 1989, where he specializes in film theory and international cinema, and founded the Columbia University MA program in Film Studies. Peña also hosts Channel 13’s weekly show, Reel 13.
Tom Ropelewski was the head of the Dartmouth Film Society and was recruited by Don Rugoff to help “fix” The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) after a disastrous screening there. He is currently a screenwriter, producer and director, best known for Look Who’s Talking Now, Loverboy, The Next Best Thing and The Kiss.
Bob Shaye founded New Line Cinema, which grew into a major film studio under his leadership. Shaye produced the original Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984, as well as the sequels and offshoots that came after it. Later in his career, Shaye greenlit Peter Jackson’s three-film adaptation of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. The franchise would go on to become one of the most lucrative in film history. Shaye stepped down as Chairman of New Line Cinema in 2008 and continues to produce films under his new company, Unique Features.
Julian Schlossberg was the Chief Film Buyer for the Walter Reade Organization, Rugoff’s main competitor in Manhattan. He has built a truly versatile career as a film studio executive, entertainment radio host, university lecturer and even a record producer in the music business. He held posts as the VP of Acquisitions and then Production at Paramount Pictures, before striking out on his own to found the film financing and distribution company, Castle Hill Productions. The company established itself as a leading distributor of American auteur cinema, including works from such directors as John Cassavetes, Elia Kazan, Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford and the Marx Brothers.
Dan Talbot was a legendary film historian, exhibitor and distributor. He was the editor of one of the books that was a cornerstone of 1960s American film culture, Film: An Anthology (1959). With his wife, Toby, he founded and operated a number of New York City’s most important art house theaters, including the New Yorker Cinema, Cinema Studio, and later the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and the Metro. He also founded New Yorker Films, a distribution company that brought many of the world’s greatest auteur directors to North American audiences. Talbot passed away in 2017 at the age of 91.
Wendy Keys was an administrator and programmer with the Film Society of Lincoln Center beginning in 1966, and continues her affiliation as a board member. During her time on staff, she directed and produced 30 of the organization’s annual galas, served on the selection committee of the New York Film Festival, and curated film programs at the Walter Reade Theater. Keys is currently Vice Chair of the International Board of Human Rights Watch, for which she programmed the first Human Rights Watch Film Festival at the Public Theater in 1988. She serves on several other boards and is involved in the production of two compilation films, one for Friends of the High Line and one for the Film Society. She also directed and produced a documentary on the designer Milton Glaser.
Justin Wyatt is an author and academic, currently holding dual positions at the University of Rhode Island (URI) as Associate Director of the Harrington School of Communication and Media and Associate Professor in Communication Studies and Film/Media. He has written several books on marketing, culture and film, including one that caught Ira Deutchman’s eye–Donald Rugoff, Cinema V and Commercial Strategies of 1960s-1970s Art Cinema (2017). Prior to his position at URI, Wyatt worked for 15 years in the media industries for such companies as NBCUniversal, Viacom and the ABC TV Network.
Elyce Bonnell, Children’s Librarian, Edgartown Public Library
Stephanie Look-Teller, wife of Rugoff’s personal driver in Martha’s Vineyard (phone interview)
Lisa Horton Sherman, Director, Edgartown Public Library
Hilary Wall, Archivist and Librarian, Vineyard Gazette