Editorial: Show Us the Money!

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For those of us who find our hearts reside with Sag Harbor, traversing Main Street on foot or driving through the village to start our day has become a melancholy experience. A big black hole dominates the landscape, but it is more about what once was and has ceased to be that remains a constant source of heartbreak: the beacon that announced “Sag Harbor” in bright red and blue letters is gone. It may well have read, “Home.”

That tugging at the collective soul of Sag Harbor was relieved earlier this month when news broke that cinema owner Gerald Mallow had reached an agreement with the Sag Harbor Partnership — the non-profit that has partnered with the village towards the creation of the John Steinbeck Waterfront Park — allowing the organization to purchase the cinema for $8 million. The Partnership is committed to rebuilding the cinema, and its iconic façade including the “Sag Harbor” sign. And while the group has promised us cinephiles a return of the independent films Mr. Mallow showcased on his single screen, the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center has the potential for so much more, becoming another artistic destination that further solidifies Sag Harbor, and the South Fork, as a center for humanities and culture, at a time when funding for that kind of programming is threatened on the federal level.

And doesn’t it always come down to funding? It will in the case of the Sag Harbor Cinema, an institution so many of us have celebrated as “saved” in the last month. The truth is, this organization needs a lot of financial support in the next 60 days — approximately $4.6 million — and while it has amassed perhaps one of the most impressive group of board members in recent memory, it may be that local donations are what will make this project a reality.

Imagine what Sag Harbor looks like without the cinema, without its façade, without the potential for programming for all ages, including teens — a demographic we have all agreed lately needs more resources on the South Fork. Instead, imagine a retail store, not our traditional mom-and-pop, family-owned businesses that define the village and are as important to the charm of Sag Harbor as the Cinema was, but more likely a national brand. Then imagine the conversation you would have with friends or family talking about the “old Sag Harbor” before December 16, and what you would give to have that back. How much would you give? $10? $100 $1,000? More?

Answering that question by visiting sagharborcinema.org could very well be what actually saves the Cinema. And for those of us with our hearts in Sag Harbor, that is an essential expense.

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