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Sag Harbor Cinema: Iconic Theater Reopening Highly Anticipated

The Cinema is expected to re-open in the Spring of 2020. (Photo: Eileen Casey)

Efforts to rebuild and reopen the Sag Harbor Cinema following a devastating fire that nearly destroyed the iconic movie house in December 2016 have proven fruitful and the grand reopening is currently scheduled for early Spring 2020.

The Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center was created in 2017 to take charge of rebuilding and operation for the theater, its rebuilding and operations through the Sag Harbor Partnership which purchased the theater, as it had been listed for lease or purchase in both 2008 and 2014.

Executive Director Gillian Gordan relayed, "The Sag Harbor Cinema is so much more than three theaters. We are planning exciting labs and education programs. The Sag Harbor Cinema will be a real community hub with a café, concessions, terraces and lounge with water views. We plan on showing smart first runs films - films that compete for Oscars, family and children's films, classics, foreign films, documentaries and silent films. We will have retrospectives of great film-makers work as well. For example, we are very excited about a year-long retrospective of D.A. Pennebaker's films. As you know, he was a resident of Sag Harbor and his film-making partner and wife, Chris Hegedus and his son, Frazer, will be collaborating with us to bring all his films to the cinema."

Well-known and treasured for its screenings of independent, documentary and foreign films the theater has a long history in the village, opening first in 1915, and changing hands in 1919 and again in 1927. Having undergone a complete make-over in 1936, the main auditorium was demolished and a new, fireproof steel and concrete building was erected, complete with 600 seats, along with a new lobby and box office. It was renamed the Sag Harbor Cinema in 1978.

"Plans include the division of the original large, 480-seat theater into two, while preserving the wonderful 'big screen' experience of its former glory, with the second theater acting as a more intimate repertory theater. A smaller 40-seat screening room, doubling as a classroom, will be on the second floor, and a third floor is being constructed which will further expand possibilities. Award-winning architect Allen Kopelson of NK Architects began his brilliant design pro bono, like all the other work done by [the] group, and was subsequently officially hired after the job was bid. Another renovation and revenue plus will be a locally sourced cafe downstairs to satisfy hungry patrons and passers-by. [The] construction company is ConRac," according to the informative web site for the Cinema.

Gordan continued, "Our Founding Artistic Director, Giulia d'Agnolo Vallan, is currently curating a wonderful new series, as a run-up to the opening of films that celebrate cinema, entitled, 'Here Comes the Cinema!' Starting on December 16 with 'Cinema Paradiso' we will be showing films like 'The Last Picture Show' and 'Sullivan's Travels' until the end of February. Giulia has lined up an extraordinary group of artists and experts to discuss the films from Laurie Anderson and Eric Fischl to Bill Collage, Mary Harron and Ed Burns. We are looking forward to opening our doors in the Spring with a big premiere and lots of fun events, not to mention a jam packed weekend of films for everyone. We cannot wait to show everyone our beautiful, re-designed cinema and bring back movies to Sag Harbor."

Although the facade was destroyed in the fire, the replica of the sign installed in 2005 following years of decay of the original designed by John Eberson was saved and reinstalled in May 2019.

So grab your popcorn, pals and wallet and continue to support this tremendous undertaking to bring back a bigger, better and even more beautiful community gathering place that represents the community we call our own.

For more information go to www.sagharborcinema.org.

Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the "ABC In Concert" weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.

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