Sag Harbor Cinema Sign Lights Up Main Street on Memorial Day Weekend

Sag Harbor Cinema before the fire, Photo: Oliver Peterson
Sag Harbor Cinema before the 2016 fire, Photo: Oliver Peterson

Efforts to restore and revive the Sag Harbor Cinema have reached a significant and exciting milestone. The iconic sign, which was rescued from the devastating fire that took down the Cinema in 2016, has been fully restored and is ready to be lit on Saturday, May 25.

“Our construction crew has been phenomenal,” says Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center Chair April Gornik. “They’ve been giving and involved in this project in the way that we all are, and we’ve been gauging our progress since we began. We have been talking about a fall opening and we have weekly meetings and during some of them, it was mentioned that the facade is ready to go.”

Eric Fischl, April Gornik
Eric Fischl, April Gornik, Photo: Barbara Lassen

Gornik notes that “it was tempting to wait until the cinema was ready, but the whole community has stuck with us from the beginning. They’ve contributed enormously. Not just the $1 million from Eric Fischl or $500,000 from Dorothy Lichtenstein—I’m talking about the $100 [donations] and students that stepped up to help. We wanted the community to see the progress we’ve made so far. I just thought, we should just make this happen! Just light the damn thing!” Gornik hopes that seeing the lit facade will inspire people to continue to donate and help ensure the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center will be ready to open this fall.

The sign, really, represents the hope and resilience the community has shown since the fire. “A significant part of why we have the sign is that village officials said they’d save the sign,” Gornik says. “They interrupted the demolition. Twin Forks Moving & Storage have stored it all this time. [Neon artist] Clayton Orehek has helped so much. They did all that for free. It was a $50,000 job! I’m telling you, when we say the community has stepped up on this, there’s a million different ways. It’s Sag Harbor and Main Street and the indelible way that Main Street has existed for so long. So it’s been this great, exhausting, long endeavor. It seems like it’s time to celebrate and it’s time to say thank you.”

So, now that the sign is ready, what’s next? The Center still needs to continue funding to completely realize its vision. “If you can imagine, we have the basic construction set up,” Gornik says. “We need sheetrock and supplies, but we also have to have a perfect HVAC system, we have to have acoustics in all the theaters to make the sound perfect, we have to restore and replace historic signs and exit lights that went on the ceiling in the cinema and we did replicate the gold fabric. Of course, they will be in a different arrangement, but we wanted to have reminders of what made the cinema the cinema.” To help with honoring the Cinema’s visual legacy, the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center has enlisted the help of Elizabeth Dow, a designer and historian. “She and her team have been helping us with all this stuff. It’s been a mountain of research and cost savings,” Gornik says.

Gornik stresses that every aspect of the project has been considered carefully and that no money is being wasted. “There’s no excess, there’s no chaff, nothing excessive or ill-conceived,” she says. In addition to the two main cinemas, there are plans for a VR room and classroom on the third floor.

The future of the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center is looking brighter than ever. “The cinema has always been an anchor on Main Street,” Gornik says. “To have it continue as the cultural hub is such a no-brainer. It will keep Main Street alive.”

The Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center sign lighting will take place on Saturday, May 25 at 8 p.m. For more information, visit

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