The Sag Harbor Partnership (SHP) has, after months of negotiation, entered into a contract to purchase the Sag Harbor Cinema from long-time owner Gerald Mallow.
First, and perhaps most important to Sag Harbor residents, the historic Art Deco façade, which was destroyed in a disastrous December 16 fire, will be rebuilt to replicate architect John Eberson’s original. The iconic blue and red neon “Sag Harbor” sign, which has been kept at Twin Forks Storage, will also be repaired and replaced. The group actually plans to have a temporary façade installed as soon as possible. “We have plans already drawn up, and the village has been wonderful about wanting to expedite the process,” artist and Vice President of SHP April Gornik said via email.
Now to the details. SHP hopes to raise funds from private “hero-donors” in order to continue the Cinema’s long tradition of programming, and to expand it by creating a new nonprofit, the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center (SHCAC). This new entity, according to a press release, is committed to education, outreach and programming for all the people of the East End. “Cinema is the new vinyl,” Gornik said, explaining “The old Quad in Manhattan just reopened, the Metrograph, a new art house there, has just become profitable. I anticipate that the SHCAC will be thriving more than ever. Cinema history is now a part of our cultural history and will need to be taught, preserved and appreciated just like any other art form.”
To that end, Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan of the Venice Film Festival and producer Andrew Fierberg, a member of Film Forum’s finance committee, have laid the original vision for what will become a year-round, fully functioning Cinema Arts Center. Its programs will be built on the art house tradition with a variety of retrospective programs of international cinema, as well as educational initiatives tailored to the local schools and community, designed to take advantage of the wealth of artists and filmmakers on the East End. “There will always be a need for people to gather and experience something together—especially in a community growing and thriving like our East End community,” Gornik said.
Plans for the new SHCAC include the preservation of the large, historic “curved scope” screen in the main theater, which will have approximately 250 seats. A second, 150-seat theater, will be added; as will a smaller, 30-seat screening room, doubling as a classroom, on a second floor. A locally owned and sourced café will also be added. Award-winning architect Allen Kopelson, of NK Architects, has designed all this pro bono.
How can we, the people, help? This year’s Big Tent party on Long Wharf, set for July 16—which last year raised over $100,000 for the proposed John Steinbeck Waterfront Park—will be raising money for the SHCAC. “We expect this year’s Big Tent party for the cinema to be a blockbuster,” SHP President Nick Gazzolo said.
“If we don’t raise funds,” Gornik says, “the true worst case scenario is something else going in. Many developers were talking to Mr. Mallow after the fire, and God only knows what could go up in the Cinema’s place. We need hero-donors to step up and pledge [and] we have to know that we have sufficient money pledged by July 1 to make sure this a viable enterprise.”
SHP’s status as a 501(c)3 means that all donations are tax deductible. As a donor, you’ll be contributing to something that is not only a photo-op for tourists, but the cultural capital of Sag Harbor—visual proof that Sag Harbor was—and will be—a cultural and intellectual powerhouse, unrivaled on the East End of Long Island. One anonymous donor has already come forward with the first $1 million. Do I hear $1.2M?
Visit sagharborpartnership.org, to stay up to date on the progress of this project and, if you’d like, to make a donation.