The filmmakers behind the documentary “Who Took Johnny,” based on the disappearance of newspaper carrier Johnny Gosch, are seeking national distribution after the film’s successful theatrical run in Iowa.

“Who Took Johnny” examines the mystery of Johnny Gosch, who went missing in the morning hours of September 5, 1982 while he was on his newspaper route delivering copies of The Des Moines Register in West Des Moines.  Over thirty years have gone by and he is still classified by law enforcement as a missing person.

“Who Took Johnny,” produced by independent film studio Rumur Inc., premiered at Fleur Cinema and Café in Des Moines, IA, on April 24 to a sold-out audience. Over 900 people went to see the film during opening weekend and the release was extended to May 7 due to flourishing ticket sales. A total of 1,975 tickets were sold during its two-week run, according to Kramer McLuckie of Fleur Cinema. The film also had a successful run at the non-profit FilmScene in Iowa City, where the venue hosted three screenings.

Before the film came to Iowa, it was shown at film festivals on four continents. Despite winning special jury prizes and other awards on the film festival circuit, filmmakers David Beilinson, Suki Hawley and Michael Galinksy have had difficulties finding national distribution for “Who Took Johnny” because some distributers say the subject matter is “too disturbing” or “not right” for mainstream audiences.

The creative team at Rumur issued a statement addressing this concern.

“Understandably with such an ugly issue, people would rather skip-over reading about these stories or change the channel of a news report, pretending the problem doesn’t exist, rather than confront the brutality of the exploitation and trafficking of children in our country.”

The problem of missing and exploited children, the filmmakers argue, has only gotten worse since Johnny disappeared. They point to the nearly 90,000 unsolved missing persons cases listed in the US Department of Justice database.

The filmmakers engaged in a mass media campaign to promote the film, which has been featured in local outlets like TV stations KCCI Channel 8, WHO-TV Channel 13 and KCWI Channel 23 along with publications like Cityview and The Des Moines Register.

Galinksy posted a statement on the Rumur website on May 8 about what they call “Phase 2” of the film’s release, which he called “our roll out to other theaters.”

Rumur is urging supporters of the film to promote “Who Took Johnny” through word of mouth and through social media. They also want to build a grassroots campaign where people request the film to be shown in theaters in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Minneapolis, St. Louis and others.

“We are having to perpetually jump over the gate keepers to get our work seen,” Galinsky writes.

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Photo Credit: Johnny Gosch getting ready to deliver newspapers © Noreen Gosch

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