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INTERVIEW: Meet James Hook, The New Sag Harbor Cinema Executive Director

T.J. Clemente

James Hook, the new Sag Harbor Cinema Executive Director. (Courtesy Photo)

Sag Harbor Cinema recently announced that James Hook has been named the new Executive Director of the Cinema. Hook is a filmmaker, producer, and a non-profit entrepreneur, among other things. Sag Harbor Cinema Board President John Alschuler said about the appointment, "Jamie emerged as a superstar candidate to lead our Cinema, and I look forward to his interactions with the Board as well as with our community. He will bring experience, a great sense of humor, an engaging personality, and deep intelligence to the position."

Hook was kind enough to speak candidly about the opportunities and challenges of his new position with Hamptons.com. He has a mesmerizing way of communicating his vision of the importance the Sag Harbor Cinema will be playing from 2020 moving forward.

"First of all, to open the doors, that's item one, but the thing that is fascinating to me and was so attractive about this incredibly unique cinema is that I am the kind of person who is always in the world of cinema," Hook told us. "I love cinema, have always loved film, but it took me a long time to realize that I am the kind of person who likes the room more than I like the screen; meaning I like the assembly of people experiencing something that might challenge their humanity and might cause them to have a conversation that changes their mind even more than I like that thing they actually observed or that thing that they experienced."

Hook continued, "Sag Harbor Cinema has the potential to be the biggest room in town, or one of the biggest rooms in town. So, for me, the biggest excitement is cinema for sure, but it's also that cinema, to me, is the part of the fabric of a responsive and committed community." Adding, "Cinema is a medium that allows you to connect with whole communities and this [Sag Harbor] happens to be in a rich - and I mean that figuratively and literally, supportive, enthusiastic, exciting and diverse, fascinating community. That is something you don't find every day. That's what drew me to this wonderful place and that's what I am excited to explore, support and help build here in Sag Harbor."

Hook has a wonderful command of the English language that draws you into his line of thought compellingly. His talk of the Sag Harbor Cinema's new state-of-the-art sound system, along with its new high tech projection systems was informative and I observed an excitement when he said, "You are going to see and hear cinema so crisp that you are going to be able to taste the cinema. I believe it's [the theater] a pretty shockingly, lovingly constructed technical triplex and that is something to be really excited about. It is the kind of lovingly technically designed for you to hear the breathing of a fish when you watch a documentary by Jacque Cousteau." When he discussed the newly acquired 1960's film projectors for when they use 38mm film for some of the old classics, Hook was filled with genuine enthusiasm. He did stress that 80 percent of the films presented most likely will be digital, but was impassioned when discussing the 20 percent that might be presented in original film form.

When asked what one film would he like to reintroduce to the Sag Harbor community, he thought hard and noted there are "so many." Finally, he surmised it might be the 1945 now classic It's a Wonderful Life starring James Stewart. He believes most people have never seen it on a big screen form start to finish. "It was produced for the big screen, not for television," noted. Expanding on this thread of thought, Hook said, "You think you have seen a film when you see it on TV. Then you see it in a theater and it's the same experience as when you think you have seen a lion, when you see a lion in a zoo, but I believe you have to see a lion in the wild to really experience seeing a lion. The film, It's a Wonderful Life by Frank Capra, is the film where I had the experience of saying I thought I had seen this film... But, the big screen is the way this film was meant to be watched. The experience of seeing that movie in a cinema, for me, is one of the most overwhelming experiences I have ever had in my life. This is an American film, but it's really a sacrament of the cinema."

In a concluding remark, Hook thanked all who made his selection possible, mentioning the genius of Artistic Director, Giulia D'Agnolo Vallan and Chair of the Board April Gornik along with John Alschuler, President. Hook said he hopes Sag Harbor Cinema "is open taking in tickets to see films in 2020, I know that's a moving target, but I think it will happen. This historic, but now rebuilt 87-years-old cinema is the product of some very careful and some very ambitious people who have taken the DNA of this old cinema and reconstituted it. I predict the Sag Harbor Cinema will be a jewel on Long Island for another 100 years."

Sag Harbor Cinema is located at 90 Main Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, visit www.sagharborcinema.org.

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