October 8, 2020 - 3:34pm
Posted by Jim Healy


UPDATE: Our licensing period for Searching for Mr. Rugoff and Gimme Shelter has expired and the movies are no longer available to view at home through the Cinematheque. You can still listen to our podcast discussion with Ira Deutchman here on our blog.

Beginning October 8 for a limited time, the Cinematheque continues its series of free movies to watch at home with two feature length documentaries that were both originally selected to screen at the cancelled 2020 Wisconsin Film Festival. Seen together, both movies offer a tribute to Cinema 5, a pioneering distributor of American independent and international films.

SEARCHING FOR MR. RUGOFF (2019, USA, 94 min.) One of the most influential people in the history of independent movies, Donald Rugoff was a New York theater chain owner who later founded his own distribution company, Cinema 5. With a gruff, and sometimes downright impossible personality, Rugoff kicked art films into the mainstream with outrageous marketing schemes and pure bluster. Some of his most successful releases included Costa-Gavras’ Z, Lina Wertmuller’s Swept Away, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Robert Downey's Putney Swope, and the legendary Rolling Stones documentary, Gimme Shelter. His impact on the art film business is undeniable. Yet, mysteriously, Rugoff has become a virtually forgotten figure. In Searching for Mr. Rugoff director Ira Deutchman, himself an important figure in independent releasing, sets out to find the truth about the man who had such a major impact on his life, and uncovers some surprising and poignant truths. “An enthralling documentary that movie buffs everywhere will want to see. Don Rugoff… had a dream, and Searching for Mr. Rugoff is an infectious salute to what that dream was: a place where cinema could live” (Owen Gleiberman, Variety)

GIMME SHELTER (1970, USA, 91 min.) In late 1969, at the peak of their popularity, the Rolling Stones agreed to appear at a festival rock concert at the Altamont Speedway in northern California. This ultimately disastrous event, ending in mayhem and murder, has come to be considered by many as the symbolic nail in the coffin of the 1960s. Interviewed after Altamont, and captured at other venues on their tour by a camera crew that included George Lucas, Joan Churchill, and This is Spinal Tap cinematographer Peter Smokler, the Stones are spellbinding subjects and stage presences, as they perform classics like “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Jumping Jack Flash,” and “Under My Thumb.” Originally released by Cinema 5, Donald Rugoff’s distribution company, Gimme Shelter was cut to earn a PG rating. Uncensored in this digital restoration, the movie also has a revamped Dolby Stereo soundtrack. In the 50 years since its original release, Gimme Shelter has steadily been regarded as one of the greatest of all “rockumentaries.” Join us as we celebrate a half century of this exhilarating and haunting classic. 

Beginning October 8, the Cinematheque has a limited number of opportunities to view both Searching for Mr. Rugoff and Gimme Shelter at home for free. To receive access, send an email to, and simply include the word RUGOFF, in the subject line.

And, on a new episode of our Cinematalk podcast, Cinematheque Director of Programming Jim Healy interviews Ira Deutchmann, director of Searching for Mr. Rugoff. Listen here on our blog or subscribe to Cinematalk through Apple Podcasts.

Plus, limited free access is still available for previous Cinematheque selections Can You Hear Us Now?, Jazz on a Summer's Day, and Narrowsburg, the latter two movies were also 2020 Wisconsin Film Festival selections. Click on each title to learn how to gain access. Separate emails are required for each request.

Stay healthy and safe. We value your support for the Cinematheque and we look forward to being able to watch movies with you soon in the proper cinematic settings of 4070 Vilas Hall and the Chazen Museum of Art.