2017 was a whirlwind in Sag Harbor, relatively speaking. The Women’s March, Conca D’Oro closed, home renovation up and down Madison and Main Streets and, of course, it was the first year without a cinema on Main Street in more than a century. And, thanks to the hard work, determination and dedication of the Sag Harbor Partnership (SHP), the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center (SHCAC), and the indefatigable April Gornik, the space won’t become high–end condos or offices or some big box retail store. Instead, as was the hope and plan all along, Sag Harbor will be getting its Cinema back—and better than ever!
On December 13, 2017, almost one year to the day of the devastating fire, the SHP and the SHCAC surpassed their initial fundraising goal of $8 million in pledges needed to purchase the cinema from then–owner, Gerald Mallow, thanks in part to a $1.4 million state grant and an anonymous $500,000 donation. “We are ecstatic that our efforts over the last year helped us meet our funding goal. This was truly the work of an incredible community of people with a common goal,” April Gornik, Vice President of the SHP and Chair of the SHCAC, said.
On January 10 the SHP formally closed on the purchase of the Sag Harbor Cinema from Mallow. In a letter to the community, SHP thanked its many supporters large and small, noting that more than 2,500 people donated and more than 90% of donations were $1,000 and under. It takes a village.
Now that that’s all taken care of, the SHCAC is on to phase two: building. “We hope to begin building early this summer,” Gornik told us, “and are working towards completion of all the necessary board approvals so that we can submit plans and obtain our building permit.” She hopes the work will be completed during the first quarter of 2020, adding “this, of course, depends on the kind of community support we get in terms of funding and also potential in-kind help!” The amount of funding needed for this phase? The anticipated cost of renovation and construction, according to Gornik, will be $5–6 million.
The redesign includes replacing the beloved façade, complete with the iconic Sag Harbor neon, replicating John Eberson’s original. In addition, there will be three screening rooms. The new SHCAC will preserve the large, historic “curved scope” screen in the main theater, which will have approximately 250 seats and show the sort of independent and arthouse films we’ve come to expect of the Cinema. A second, 150-seat theater will be used for a variety of series, which may not have the same audience draw as first-run movies. A smaller, 30-seat screening room, on a new second floor, will allow for longer runs—and reruns—of popular films, and can be rented out for private screenings.
Overall, the new Cinema will feature spectacular state-of-the-art equipment and a brand new sound system. It will also have the ability to show digital, 35mm and even 16mm films with astonishing resolution, so that the viewer experience will be as the filmmakers’ had intended. “It will be a state-of-the art cinematheque,” Gornik says.
For those who can’t wait to get to the movies, the new Cinema’s inaugural program, The American Values Film Series, will show it’s last film, The Americanization of Emily, at Pierson High School on March 4 at 2 p.m. This anti-war film was both controversial and highly celebrated when it opened in 1964. It places the audience back in 1944 London, during the build-up to D-Day, where Charlie Madison (James Garner), an American naval officer with a taste for the good life, sees his priorities challenged when he falls in love with a driver from the motor pool, Emily Barham (Julie Andrews). Stick around following the movie for an in-depth audience discussion with none other than Andrews herself.
For more on the SGCAC visit sagharborcinema.org.