Since the Sag Harbor Cinema was destroyed in a fire two years ago, the nonprofit Sag Harbor Partnership has worked tirelessly to not only bring the storied structure back to its former glory, but to make it even better. In its completed form, the new Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center will be a hub of culture for the village, with multiple screens, a lounge/cafe and more.
There have been some exciting recent developments for the Center. Southampton Town Board has unanimously approved a Community Preservation Fund purchase of $4 million in easements on the property to preserve the Art Deco façade. And the iconic neon sign, displaying the words “Sag Harbor,” has already been restored.
Susan Lacy, head of the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center’s advisory board and a prolific filmmaker in her own right, is among the many film industry professionals helping to guide the project. Lacy created the American Masters series on PBS and founded Pentimento Productions to create her own films.
One of the first things the advisory board did was ensure film fans had something to enjoy while the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center is under construction. “We developed a small programming committee and decided that since the theater would be down for a while, we wanted to keep it alive in a way, so we started the film series,” Lacy explains. “This is a community of film professionals. As much as we could pull the film community together, to help with contacts, to help spread the word, that’s where our strength is.”
The committee organized two highly successful screening series, the American Values Series and the Artists Love Movies series, which presented films and featured panel discussions with luminaries such as Sag Harbor’s Julie Andrews. Artists Love Movies recently closed with Lacy’s own film, Leonard Bernstein: Reaching for the Stars. Bernstein’s daughter, Jamie Bernstein, spoke at the screening.
The next screening, to be held on Saturday, November 3 at the Pierson High School auditorium, is a sneak preview of Peter, Paul and Mary at Newport 1963–65, executive produced by Sag Harbor’s Joe Lauro. The film is scheduled to air on PBS in the near future. Lauro will discuss the film and show additional outtake footage from the Newport Festivals. All proceeds from the screening go toward rebuilding the cinema.
With the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center and the recent purchase of the Methodist Church by April Gornik (who is also spearheading development of the cinema) and Eric Fischl, who plan to transform it into an arts center, Lacy believes that Sag Harbor will become a lucrative, exciting hub for the arts. “We don’t want to compete with all the other tremendous arts organizations out here, including Sag Harbor! We’re not going to try to do the same thing Bay Street [does],” she notes.
The Sag Harbor Cinema has a long way to go before it will be ready to reopen as the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center. You can help: Donate to the Sag Harbor Partnership at sagharborpartnership.org. For more information about Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center, visit sagharborcinema.org.