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Nonprofit surpasses $8M goal, can purchase Sag Harbor Cinema

Group plans to rebuild iconic theater damaged in 2016 fire, divide it into separate theaters and add a screening room and cafe.

Chiefs from the Sag Harbor Fire Dept. look

Chiefs from the Sag Harbor Fire Dept. look at the aftermath of a multiple structure fire on Main St. in Sag Harbor, Dec. 16, 2016. Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

A nonprofit dedicated to restoring the Sag Harbor Cinema has raised the money needed to buy the historic theater destroyed in a fire nearly a year ago.

The Sag Harbor Partnership was awarded a $1.4 million Empire State Economic Development grant, state officials said on Wednesday. An anonymous $500,000 donation was also announced that day, bringing the total raised to more than $8 million.

The Art Deco theater and four other buildings were destroyed in a blaze that tore through the village’s Main Street on Dec. 16, 2016. The façade of the building was demolished shortly after the blaze, though its iconic neon sign was saved and the theater, though badly damaged, still stands. The organization signed a contract on April 6 to buy the property for $8 million from longtime owner Gerald Mallow, but will need to raise an additional $5 million to $6 million to rebuild the structure.

“We are ecstatic that our efforts over the last year have helped us meet our funding goal to save the Cinema,” said April Gornik, the nonprofit’s vice president, in a statement on Wednesday. “This was truly the work of an incredible community of people with a common goal.”

The partnership also announced that actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, as well as producer Darren Star, had pledged their support, but declined to say how they would be involved.

Assemb. Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) called the theater the “soul of the village,” noting that it attracts moviegoers who also spend money while dining and shopping downtown.

“I grew up in Sag Harbor and I’ve been going to that cinema since I was buying 35-cent tickets for a double feature on Saturdays in the 1960s,” Thiele said. “It’s been an essential part of the village for a long, long time.”

The organization plans to divide the now 468-seat theater into two theaters with 250 and 150 seats. The group also wants to rebuild the lobby and create a screening room and a cafe.

When rebuilt, the theater will feature state-of-the-art equipment, a new sound system and projection ratios and equipment that will allow film to be shown at 35mm and 16mm in addition to digital, which is most commonly used today.

Billy Joel donated $500,000 to the initiative in May, earning him naming rights for the theater’s popcorn stand. Other celebrities involved include famed director Martin Scorsese and Oscar-winning actress Julie Andrews, who sits on the organization’s advisory board.

Long Island received $84.3 million for 98 projects throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties from the Regional Economic Development Council, it was announced on Wednesday. Sag Harbor also received $3 million to repair its Long Wharf Village Pier.

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