Sag Harbor Cinema to Rise Again

A year after fire, partnership meets $8 million fund-raising goal to buy property
The Sag Harbor Cinema lobby was heavily damaged in a fire in December 2016. Money has now been found to rebuild it. Durell Godfrey

Three days before the one-year anniversary of the Main Street fire that destroyed Sag Harbor’s iconic movie theater, the Sag Harbor Partnership and the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center announced that their fund-raising goal of $8 million, needed to purchase the cinema from its current owners, has been surpassed.

Helping to push the effort across the finish line was a $1.4 million state grant awarded to the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center. News of the windfall was delivered yesterday by New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. to Susan Mead, a board member of the Sag Harbor Partnership. An anonymous $500,000 donation was also received yesterday.

In a press release, Nick Gazzolo, the president of the Sag Harbor Partnership, said, “We want to thank all of our local elected officials who have been supportive of the cinema effort. This grant helps us ring the bell to close on the property right before the anniversary of the fire. Their support was very important in making this possible.”

The state money comes in the form of Empire State Economic Development grants, which were announced Wednesday by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. The object of the funding is to assist economic development initiatives and projects that promise to create or retain jobs, generate increased economic activity, and improve the economic and social vitality of local communities.

Although the $8 million is earmarked for the purchase of the property, preliminary plans for rebuilding the Sag Harbor Cinema have already been discussed by the village’s Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board. Envisioned is an art movie house with two auditoriums, a private screening room, and a cafe. A new sound system and state-of-the-art projection equipment planned to be installed will give the theater the “ability to show digital, 35mm, and even 16mm with astonishing resolution, so that the viewer experience will be as the filmmakers had intended,” the press release stated. The emphasis will be on film history as well as contemporary movie viewing.

April Gornik, the vice president of the Sag Harbor Partnership and chairwoman of the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center, expressed her joy over the organizations’ successful efforts to save the cinema and added, “This was truly the work of an incredible community of people with a common goal. We also extend a huge thank you to Leo, Sarah, Matthew, and Darren for their support as we rebuild the cinema to bring independent film back to Main Street.” Ms. Gornik was referring to Leonardo DiCaprio, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, and Darren Star, who have pledged their help and support in the cinema’s reconstruction.

The cost of rebuilding the cinema has been estimated at $5 million.