Rising from the literal ashes of the Sag Harbor Cinema’s devastating 2016 fire, the new Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center is now one significant step closer to realizing its ambitious vision with the hiring of Executive Director Gillian Gordon. The Springs resident, who has worked as a producer and executive, as well as Director of Graduate Studies in Media Arts at the Royal Holloway University of London, has an auspicious vision to make the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center a cultural hub for local filmgoers.
“This has been my fantasy for many years,” says Gordon, who had ideas about purchasing the cinema some time ago. Gordon has a clear plan for Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center. “My vision is to turn it into a world-class cinema for everyone that sets a kind of standard and is a sort of model for community not-for-profit cinemas. Alongside that goes education and outreach. There’s a huge opportunity there,” she says.
Gordon describes her film taste as eclectic. “I would say my [tastes range] from classic screwball comedies to Middle Eastern and Asian cinema, as well as the Italian cinema of the ’60s,” she says. “I love independent cinema primarily, although I am a fan of Hollywood films as well. I wouldn’t say I’m a film snob. Great cinema is great cinema. So is television. I don’t care what size of screen we watch on.”
To that end, Gordon wants Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center to have a wide range of programming. “We’re going to show independent cinema, cinema for kids, but also, because we can have a small screening room, we can do whatever we want—we can do retrospectives, we can do focused genre [screenings]….That’s what’s driving me and the board. We all see that we can stay home and watch films on our big screen, and become more and more isolated, and be part of the sort of Netflix phenomenon. I really believe that people love to go to the cinema; they like to see other people, they like to discuss film. Because there’s so many different kinds of people. There’s a wonderful diversity and we should be catering to all those different tastes.”
Splitting her time between the East End and abroad, Gordon has a long history with the Hamptons. “My father [Ernest Gordon] was the minister at the First Presbyterian Church of Amagansett,” she explains. “We moved from Scotland when I was a very young child. We just fell in love with it out here and have always kept a house here. I’ve spent the best parts of my life here. And then I moved to Springs in 2011 from Amagansett.” Gordon’s father was also the dean of the Chapel at Princeton University.
With Gordon’s vision, the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center will be a staple for East Enders. “I used to go to East Hampton Cinema and that was a thing you did with a gang of friends,” she says. “It was a really fun thing to do. I think that’s what we’d like to see, that tradition continue.” Gordon suggests several different ways for people to get involved. “We’d love to get volunteers, and we’re going to be doing some education programs,” she says. “Not just kids and teenagers! We’ll do all kinds of different educational programs; we have a really terrific education committee.”
Gordon hopes East Enders, and all Long Islanders, look forward to the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center. “Where Sag Harbor Cinema is, in the literal center of Sag Harbor, makes it a real focus for the community. We’re going to have a cafe, a bar. It’s not just going to the movies.”
For more information about the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center, visit sagharborcinema.org.