The Sag Harbor Cinema—to many, a symbol of the village’s historical and cultural roots—will have a new life, if recent plans come to fruition.
The Sag Harbor Partnership, a community group that had hoped to purchase the iconic theater even before it was all but destroyed in a fire on December 16, is in contract with the cinema’s owner of 38 years, Gerald Mallow, to buy the property at 90 Main Street for $8 million.
The plan is to run the cinema as a new not-for-profit, the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center.
According to April Gornik, the partnership’s vice president, the group intends to restore the outer building to its original Art Deco-inspired look—and to re-light the neon “Sag Harbor” sign, which was pulled from the wreckage when the building’s Main Street facade was demolished.
The partnership’s plan would split the original 480-seat auditorium into two screening rooms, with the original theater scaled back to 250 seats, featuring the same projection screen as in the original cinema, and with a new 150-seat auditorium built behind it.
The cinema’s front facade and lobby were torn down after the fire damaged the building, which was also home to the RJD Gallery. The rear part of the building, which houses the cinema itself, mostly remains intact.
Ms. Gornik said the side of the building where the RJD Gallery hosted art shows would be turned into a small café for theatergoers to enjoy before or after seeing the latest acclaimed independent and foreign films—the type of movies formerly chosen by Mr. Mallow. Ms. Gornik said the building’s second floor would become a 30-seat screening room for private events.
“Most people don’t know that a group met back in 2009 to see about buying and preserving the cinema when it was advertised then for sale,” Ms. Gornik, who heads the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center organization, said in a press release issued on Tuesday. “We reassembled again last July, with new input and members, when Gerry [Mallow] approached us about wanting to sell the cinema to someone who’d preserve it.”
The cost to rebuild and restore the cinema is expected to be between $4 million and $5 million. So far, Ms. Gornik said, the partnership has received a $1 million contribution from a donor she would not identify, and hopes to have more pledges from community members within the next few months.
When the organization hosts its annual Big Tent Party on Long Wharf on July 16, it will honor Mr. Mallow for his years of preserving the cinema, while raising funds for the building’s purchase.
“We’re counting on people who want to save Main Street to help us save it,” Ms. Gornik said. “We know that preserving the cinema is key to preserving the character and integrity of what we’ve all recognized as Main Street, Sag Harbor.”