From the 2016 fire that burned down its iconic façade to the long funding and rebuilding process to the pandemic shutdown, Sag Harbor Cinema has been unable to provide the East End with its uniquely Sag Harbor filmgoing experience for far too long. The wait finally ends on April 9.
This month, Sag Harbor Cinema is doing a long-awaited soft opening with an enticing slate of films scheduled for its first week and more screenings in the works for the weeks leading up to the official grand opening on Memorial Day weekend. “We’re starting to show films and allowing people in, which is very thrilling,” says founding artistic director Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan. “But we want to build up to Memorial Day weekend when we’ll have a program that shows everything the cinema can do. We’re thinking of it like a crescendo toward Memorial Day weekend!”
Visitors to the newly redesigned cinema are in for a treat, as the facility is back better than ever, boasting three state-of-the-art screens with cutting-edge digital projection, one of the best sound-reproduction systems in New York, a new café, lounge and other community use spaces. One of the most vital additions is the industry-leading HVAC and air-sanitizing systems that, when paired with the strictest possible COVID-compliance standards including mask use and pre-reserved socially distanced seating, should provide audiences with the peace of mind to enjoy their moviegoing experience without fear of sickness.
In addition to socially distanced showings, the cinema also offers pod screenings, which allow an entire screening room to be rented for the exclusive use of a private party up to 10 people. For $150 per pod screening, the service grants access to any film in the current program in a private space that’s sterilized after each use.
“It’s been a long and challenging road to get to this moment,” states SHC capital campaign chair April Gornik. “But at long last, we are thrilled to be able to open our doors to Sag Harbor and the East End, to welcome you back to your brand-new cinema—masked and distanced, of course.”
Sag Harbor Cinema’s soft opening week schedule comprises screenings of three stunning feature films and three programs of Oscar shorts.
Launching on Friday, April 9 is Azazel Jacobs’ French Exit based on Patrick deWitt’s subversive novel about a recently-widowed Manhattan socialite who moves to Paris with her son and cat, which may be the reincarnation of her late husband. The film, a national release, stars Michelle Pfeiffer and Lucas Hedges. “The mood of the film is a comedy—it’s very smart, very stylish, a little dark,” D’Agnolo Vallan says. “I love the movie, and it seemed like a nice profile for the opening.” French Exit plays daily at 4:30 and 7 p.m. The Director will appear via Zoom for a post-screening Q&A following the 7 p.m. show on Saturday, April 10.
Also launching on opening day is Oscar frontrunner Nomadland by Chinese filmmaker Chloé Zhao. The film follows Fern (Frances McDormand) as she sets off to explore a life outside of conventional society following the economic collapse of a company town in rural Nevada. “I think it speaks to a more universal way of thinking about our lives and our humanity and what it means to be inside a society or outside,” D’Agnolo Vallan shares. “It ties into a great tradition of all-American cinema, which is the western, and it’s re-told from a completely original point of view and by a woman who happens to be from China…. It’s also visually striking, so I am very excited that we can finally show it in all its beauty and stylistic sophistication.” Check the cinema’s website for showtimes.
The three full-length Oscar Shorts programs cover all nominated animated, live action and documentary short films, the latter being a “very underestimated genre,” according to D’Agnolo Vallan. “These programs are usually very much enjoyed by the audience because they pick their own favorites, and they try to pick which one is going to win,” she notes. Visit the cinema website for more info on the programs and showtimes, which begin April 9, and get ready to test your prediction skills when the Oscar winners are announced at the Academy Awards on April 25.
Finally, at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 3, and Sunday, April 4, Sag Harbor Cinema presents matinee screenings of Irish animator Tomm Moore’s 2020 hand-drawn, Academy Award-nominated Wolfwalkers, the third entry in his Irish folklore trilogy, following The Secret of Kells (2004) and Song of the Sea (2014). The film follows an apprentice wolf trapper in the town of Kilkenny, who forms a strange bond with the not-so-inhuman creatures she is dedicated to exterminating. “The colors of Wolfwalkers are amazing! The look is very distinctive; it’s different from classic American animation. The design is so beautiful that is almost goes into abstract filmmaking,” D’Agnolo Vallan says, adding that while the film is technically available for streaming, “It really needs to be re-watched or discovered on a big screen.” After a year of watching movies exclusively on televisions and computer screens, that sentiment likely rings true for all of us, for just about every film we plan to see this year.
Visit sagharborcinema.org for tickets and more information about showtimes, pod screenings and more.