The Sag Harbor Cinema fire of December 16, 2016 left a deep wound in a village where generations of locals, summer people and visitors had fond memories of its old-fashioned décor, its rare single screen, its funky candy counter and its earthy smell, the result of its rear footings sitting in what used to be a swamp.
The theater represented what Sag Harbor is: a real functional community against all odds, full of families who have been here for generations, a stirring history, a functional business district and the character to buck the latest trends. We all took its destruction in stride — just another disaster among Main Street’s history of fiery disasters — but its absence rattled our souls at a time when many American souls were already shaken to the core.
The wound began to heal when the non-profit Sag Harbor Partnership began raising funds to buy the property, pulling it off in early 2018. It then set out to bring the cinema’s art deco façade and its emblematic neon “SAG HARBOR” sign back to Main Street with a brand new, three-screen non-profit Cinema Arts Center behind it. Construction began last year, and the hope is — with continued fundraising — it can be completed and put into operation late this year.
On Saturday night, the wound seemed to disappear without even leaving the trace of a scar. All the progress so far, and the promise of great things to come, made the official lighting-up of the newly restored and remounted “SAG HARBOR” neon sign that night a deeply stirring affair.
Even more stirring, but in a quieter, comforting way, is the sight of that sign and the cinema’s dear old façade, back where it belongs at the heart of Main Street.