The art deco Greenport Theatre has been a staple of that village for decades. The building dates to 1939, built after the Hurricane of ’38 took down the original Metro Theatre.
AMC Networks President and CEO Josh Sapan, who has a home on Shelter Island, purchased the theater in 2004. When he first saw it, Sapan says, “I thought the theater was beautiful. I thought it would be wonderful to try to preserve it and maintain its history.”
After purchasing the property, Sapan brought in Foley Fiore Architecture, which had experience in historic preservation, to work on revamping the theater. “They did a beautiful renovation that both respected the history of the theater and also made it functional and accommodating,” Sapan says.
“A lot of it was Josh’s vision,” says architect Paul Fiore. “It was ‘Let’s expand on what we have and fix it.’ When you walk in, you can’t tell what’s original and what’s new, which is the point.”
The renovation was completed over the winters of 2005 and 2006. The theater typically closes during the off-season. This year, there have been talks between Sapan and the Village of Greenport about keeping the theater open year-round. As long as the town can cover operating costs, Sapan says he would let it use the theater free of charge.
Aside from showing Hollywood blockbusters, the theater screens some independent films and is used by the Manhattan Film Institute, a boutique film school, and in the Greenport Maritime Festival. “When the theater isn’t operating in winter,” Sapan says, “the showcases for [movie] posters are given over to kids, whose art is portrayed on the street.”
This September, the theater will host the North Fork TV Festival for the second straight year. The festival aims to elevate and draw attention to independent TV, while bringing together the innovative minds of TV executives, directors, writers and actors.
Highlights of the second annual TV Festival, which takes place September 7–9, include awards night with the festival’s artistic director Jerry Foley, where actor Christopher McDonald will present the North Fork Canopy award to fellow actor Chris Noth. There will also be an industry panel featuring Sarah Treem of Showtime’s The Affair, Janine Sherman Barrois of TNT’s Claws, and Christina Wayne of Showtime’s I’m Dying Up Here, plus premieres of independent pilots.
There are four theaters available. On the first floor, there are two standard theaters. There’s a hallway in which art is displayed—primarily works by artists with North Fork connections. At the end of the hallway, there’s a small theater, used for screening independent films, which can also double as a gallery space. Finally, the upstairs theater has the most seats as well as a stage in front of the screen. This space has been used for concerts. “It’s a great place to have a conversation,” Sapan says.
As its programming expands, the Greenport Theatre is emerging as a cinematic and cultural arts center for an increasingly vibrant arts community.
Greenport Theatre is located at 211 Front Street. Call 631-477-8600 for ticket and event info. For info about the North Fork TV Festival, running September 7–9, visit northfork.tv.