The curtain is finally going up on Huntington’s newly renovated Cinema Arts Centre, which officially reopens Friday after more than two years of darkness due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was just listening to the whirring of our 35 mm projectors,” Dylan Skolnick, the venue’s co-director, said earlier this week. “I’d forgotten how much I missed that sound.”
The Cinema Arts Centre will be the rare movie theater to emerge from the pandemic looking better than before. While other venues rushed to reopen, the Cinema remained closed to complete a $300,000 renovation that includes new seats, carpets, soundproofing, lighting fixtures and restrooms. Longtime patrons will notice more open space in the lobby and added areas for wheelchairs in the auditoriums. The Cinema also has adopted a new logo with a sleek font and clean lines that suggest cinematic motion.
Floor plans in the auditoriums have changed to accommodate larger seats, provide better sightlines and allow patrons to move around more comfortably. The venue’s biggest auditorium, Cinema 1, now holds about 195 people, down from 265, and has been redesigned with a wide walkway across the middle of the room so that patrons don’t have to walk in front of the screen. (“People were self-conscious,” Skolnick said.) In Cinema 2, there are new seats where the middle aisle once was, allowing for better views. Cinema 3 now totals 47 seats, down from 88.
Though fewer seats might mean fewer tickets, Skolnick said the goal is to provide a better moviegoing experience that will bring patrons back more frequently. “How often do you fill up every seat?” he said. “So you do better over the course of the year, as opposed to when you just have these blockbuster weekends.”
A not-for-profit, member-supported organization and one of the oldest art-house venues in the country, the Cinema Arts Centre was founded by Skolnick’s parents, the late Vic Skolnick and his partner, Charlotte Sky, who at 91 still serves as co-director. Dylan Skolnick, 54, said his family-run theater survived the pandemic thanks to generous contributions from members — “even when there weren’t movies to come see,” he noted — along with state and federal funding and partial rent forgiveness from the Town of Huntington, which owns the former school building that the theater occupies.
The Cinema held a soft opening Tuesday and has been showing films this week as a test run. Those titles — “The Power of the Dog,” “Drive My Car” and “The Worst Person in the World,” all Oscar nominees from last year — will be replaced Friday with three new releases: The French fantasy “Petite Maman,” the acclaimed indie film “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and a documentary, “Fiddler’s Journey to the Big Screen,” which chronicles the making of the 1964 musical “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Ira Kalina, a longtime Cinema patron, came into the lobby Wednesday afternoon hoping to buy advance tickets to “Deconstructing Let It Be,” a live multimedia lecture that will be led by Beatles expert Scott Freiman on May 7. Kalina, 75, said he and his wife hadn’t been to a movie since the pandemic began and were eager to get back to the Cinema Arts Centre.
“I keep asking, ‘When is it opening?’ ” Kalina said. “It’s nice to get out of the house, you know?”