Ragtag champions independent film and other media arts to stimulate and enrich the culture of our community. We do this by:
In 1997, the all-volunteer effort known as the Ragtag Film Society began screening films at Columbia's premiere downtown concert venue, The Blue Note. Society members included David Wilson, Paul Sturtz, Gabriel Wallace, Scott Davis, and Chad Furgueson, who were supported by the generosity of Richard King, 9th Street Video's Janet Marsh, a mysteriously connected man named Sam Black, and countless disenfranchised Columbia youth. With no experience in the film business, scant technical knowledge and a devil-may-care attitude, the film society curated five series, tapping into tremendous community enthusiasm for independent film. Highlights includes a Superbowl Sunday screening of Underground and the gorgeous Princess Mononoke, the first film screened with an operational, if cobbled together, 35mm projection system.
In short order, the Society was approached by Ron Rottinghaus, Tim Spence, and Holly Roberson, who had a vision for a combination bakery, bar, and movie house. Forces were joined, support was mustered, but no viable location could be found. Finally in May 2000, Bonavita Enterprises opened Ragtag Cinemacafé at 23 N. 10th Street, in part due to the benevolent support of Margot McMillen. Housed in a storefront, the 10th Street theater was intimate with 70 seats and a tiny bar. The first screening was the best movie ever about Missouri, Christopher Guest's Waiting for Guffman. Other program highlights from the early Tenth Street days include Lars Von Trier's Dancer in the Dark, readings by Dave Eggers, who afterward signed autographs in the alley while a trapeze overtook the theater, and The Beaver Trilogy, introduced by a very intoxicated drag queen.
In June 2001, Uprise Bakery, also a Bonavita project, opened around the corner at 816 Broadway, offering customers full flavored artisan and whole grain breads, homemade soups, specialty sandwiches, scratch pastries, bread plates, and breakfast. Even before its opening date, Uprise provided and inspired bread, soups, snacks and treats, forming the basis of Ragtag's array of upscale concessions.
A hugely popular screening of Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window at the Missouri Theatre in 2000 and a fundraising dinner hosted by filmista Sarah Riddick made it possible for the Society to purchase a 35mm projector for the Missouri Theatre, which led to four years of ambitious series. The historic 1,200-seat Missouri Theatre was home to, among other events, a sell-out show of Sing-Along Sound of Music and the silent film classic Nosferatu with live accompaniment by the Alloy Orchestra.
Also in 2004, Ragtag Cinema reconfigured itself into a nonprofit arts organization and received tax exemption from the IRS. Original board members included Charlotte Overby, Anna Lingo, Tom Prater, Ron Newman, Dr. Nancy West, and Dr. Sarah Riddick.
Over the next few years, Ragtag continued to expand its scope. In February 2004, Ragtag supported the first True/False Film Festival, which drew 4000 guests to three venues. Highlights from that year included opening night film Touching the Void and the Speed Levitch Bus Tour. Since that time, True/False has increased audience size sixfold, and tripled its venues and seating. In the summer of 2005, Ragtag launched an outdoor film series to provide family entertainment at Columbia's Flat Branch Park, and on June 9, 2006, Ragtag Cinema grossed fourth highest in the nation for the opening night of Prairie Home Companion, thanks to partnerships with screenwriter Ken LaZebnik and Public Radio KBIA.
By late 2006, Ragtag Cinema and its audiences had outgrown its cramped lobby, single bathroom, and aging projection equipment. The Board of Directors launched a capital campaign to raise funds for a new theater space and all its accoutrements. Within two years, the community had contributed around $250,000 to cover much of the cost of final construction, seating, screens, curtains, the box office, ticketing systems, and projection equipment.
In February 2008, Ragtag moved to its current home in the former Coca-Cola bottling plant on Hitt Street. Improved facilities include waiting area; multiple bathrooms; new 35mm, digital projection, and sound technology; improved sight lines; and larger screens. We are thrilled to move in with Uprise Bakery and Ninth Street Video, and to be able to offer arts, entertainment, and a unique experience to an ever-growing audience. In 2008, we screened 185 first-run films and hosted more than 55,000 patrons. We also presented 58 special events and collaborated with more than a dozen community organizations. We extended our arts programming and presented five repertory film series, hosted four live theater events, 13 live music events, 11 visiting filmmakers, six local filmmakers, and three artists.
Ragtag Cinema humbly thanks everyone who has participated in the creation and operation of the theater. As patrons, volunteers, donors, members, presenters, and filmmakers, you have made Ragtag Cinema what it is today.