Gillian Gordon: Fresh Eyes on THAW Fest and Sag Harbor Cinema

Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center Executive Director Gillian Gordon in front of the Cinema, currently under construction
Sag Harbor Cinema Executive Director Gillian Gordon in front of the Cinema, currently under construction, Photo: David Taylor

The Hamptons Arts Network (HAN) is an exclusive consortium of local nonprofits led by their acclaimed executive directors, so to be given a seat at the table is a tremendous honor. As the new executive director of the nearly completed Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center, Gillian Gordon brings a fresh perspective to the planning of HAN’s annual event, The Hamptons Arts Weekend (THAW) Fest, which has now expanded to every weekend in March, allowing festivalgoers time to enjoy each scheduled event.

See the Full THAW Fest 2020 Schedule Here.

Gordon joined HAN this year, not just as a peer but as a fan of Guild Hall, the Parrish Art Museum, the Watermill Center, Southampton Arts Center, the Madoo Conservancy, Eastville Community Historical Society and the dozen other Hamptons organizations that make up the network. “There are amazing cultural institutions out here, and nobody knows about them to the extent that they should know about them,” Gordon says. “I come in as somebody with fresh eyes, and it’s just so impressive what’s going on here! I’m really excited about it and grateful that really smart people decided to get together and talk collaboration, talk about ways of working together, and, as a united force, let the world know, particularly our state and national governments, that this truly is a cultural hub and has tremendous value.”

Gordon is thrilled with this year’s THAW Fest schedule and hopes to attend each and every offering on it, especially the Sag Harbor Cinema screening that artistic director Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan has been thoughtfully planning. She’s chosen the recent 4K remastering of the critically acclaimed 1974 film A Bigger Splash, which boasts an astounding 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. The fantastical, biographical documentary focuses on British artist David Hockney and his inner circle, all of whom play themselves, as he struggles with a recent breakup and hones his art-making process. D’Agnolo Vallan happily admits that she has been looking for a chance to screen A Bigger Splash since the re-release came out last summer, and Gordon shares her excitement, describing the film as “extremely entertaining, but also very beautiful.” With Sag Harbor Cinema not expected to open for at least another month—fingers crossed for Easter weekend—the THAW Fest event will take place at Bay Street Theater on Sunday, March 29 at 4 p.m.

The Cinema is slowly but steadily meeting the requirements for a certificate of occupancy, Gordon explains, and once it does, it’s sure to quickly establish itself as a premier Hamptons cultural hub and moviegoing experience. “Thanks to television and streaming, it’s hard to get people out of their homes and into the local cinemas,” Gordon notes, pointing out that the finished Cinema will have an entertainment space, a fundraising space, two terraces and a screening room for party rentals, in addition to the main theater which features hundreds of comfortable seats, an enormous screen and 32-speaker Atmos sound.

With the Cinema’s opening date in flux over the last few months, planning the programming schedule has been difficult, D’Agnolo Vallan notes, but that hasn’t stopped her from getting ahead. “I think there is so much that can be done because the Cinema is being designed to be flexible,” she says. “I can’t wait to get my hands on it and start laying out the program.” D’Agnolo Vallan has already locked in a retrospective on the late documentarian and Sag Harborite DA Pennebaker, which will screen the first film once the theater opens and continue with 8-10 films through the end of the year. The second event that’s been announced is a collaboration with the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in June, which will screen select movies from the New York-based festival. There will also be family screenings on weekends, foreign films, silent films with accompaniment, niche picks, first-run films and other Academy Award contenders. And there are more surprises in the works through the fall!

In the meantime, East Enders have the incomparable THAW Fest to look forward to, which Gordon promises is fun and accessible to all. “We’re celebrating the end of winter, so let’s just partake in this extraordinary, rich cultural offering.”

For more info about THAW Fest, visit hamptonsartsnetwork.org. For more on the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center, visit sagharborcinema.org.

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