The Mad, Forgotten Genius Who Brought Arthouse Cinema to America

Donald Rugoff in his office in the 1970’s. (Film Comment/Sy Johnson/Courtesy Deutchman Company Inc.)
A new documentary tells the story of film distributor Don Rugoff, whose brilliant marketing campaigns and eccentric taste changed the course of movie history.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE O n April 27, 1975, shoppers on Fifth Avenue in New York City were confronted by the sight of two actors in Arthurian robes, clip-clopping up and down the street to promote a movie opening in a theater nearby. The actors promised free coconuts to the first ticket buyers. Later that day, there were lines around the block for the movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Holy Grail, which no other film distributor wanted, turned out to be a huge hit for Cinema 5, the scrappy and ingenious company that introduced Americans to a trove of great documentary, arthouse, and European

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