Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center’s Final Fundraising Push Is Underway

April Gornik and the pre-fire Sag Harbor Cinema
April Gornik and the pre-fire Sag Harbor Cinema, Photos: Oliver Peterson, Barbara Lassen

A group called the Sag Harbor Partnership, with Sag Harbor-based artist April Gornik leading the way, has taken on the task of raising $8 million so that the burned-down Sag Harbor Cinema can be reborn. The fundraising began last January. The goal is to raise this money by December 31—it’s right around the corner, and by all accounts the total as of this writing is just $6.5 million. What to do? If the money is not raised in full, the theater property will be sold to the highest bidder who could build something else.

It has been amazing to me that Gornik (and others) has taken on this task to begin with. What seems more amazing is that she is buoyantly confident that this final $1.5 million can be raised in just this short amount of time left.

A few weeks ago, there was a miscommunication with a legal action regarding a painting Alec Baldwin bought. As a result, for a while there, it seemed that half a million might flow to this theater-fundraising effort, which would have been great. But Gornik said, after learning it would not come, that they’d reach the goal anyway.

Now, with just 10 days to go, we learn how she is going to do it.

First she teases us with the announcement that major new funding has been provided by an anonymous comedian who is known for performing with what appears to be an arrow through his head. She also mentions smaller donations and a $50,000 matching fund pledge. Then comes the battle plan.

There are going to be a series of 10 films—the winter programming schedule—shown in venues here on the East End, which will be free to the general public but will surely act as previews for people to make the final push happen. Each film will be sponsored and hosted by a famous celebrity in the area. That famous celebrity will be there to talk about the film afterwards (and ask for donations, I imagine, from those inclined to give money at the film showing).

Here are the events.

Julie Andrews, following a screening of The Americanization of Emily. 

Oscar-nominated screenwriter Alec Sokolow, following a screening of Toy Story.

Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein, following a screening of All the President’s Men.

Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker, following a screening of Town Bloody Hall, their documentary on the legendary match between Germane Greer and Norman Mailer.

Director William Friedkin will introduce his very first film, The People vs. Paul Crump, a rarely screened documentary that helped save a man from the electric chair.

Artist and musician Laurie Anderson, Oscar-winning director Rob Marshall and producer John De Luca, following a screening of Chicago.

Music composer Carter Burwell will introduce the Coen Brothers’ western True Grit.

Most of these films and the events will take place in the auditorium of Sag Harbor’s Pierson High School. But others will take place in other towns in the community. They will go on through the winter.

It was on December 16, almost exactly one year ago, that the great fire destroyed the theater and several stores on each side of it in the middle of downtown. Some of the stores have been rebuilt, but the theater itself, and the neon sign reading SAG HARBOR that fronts it (and which had been rescued from the fire) are going to be completely restored and redone. The plans have been drawn. There is to be a twin movie theater, a rehearsal space, an art gallery, a meeting hall and several offices on the property. It will take its place in town as a main attraction for cultural offerings along with the Bay Street Theater.

We await the day when the project is funded and approved and the dirt begins to fly.

And of course, you can always donate independently at

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