In recent years Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan, the artistic director of the new Sag Harbor Cinema, has programmed many off-site film screenings around the East End while the cinema, which burned in a massive fire in December 2016, was being rebuilt and transformed into a nonprofit institution. During that period, she had lots of time to consider what the opening film would be when the cinema was finally ready to welcome the public into the space.
Now, she has it all figured out.
“It’s not an opening film,” she said. “It’s the opening films.”
The emphasis is on the plural here, and throughout Memorial Day weekend, it will be exactly that to celebrate the grand opening of the Sag Harbor Cinema. With three theaters of varying sizes, Vallan has the flexibility to present a multifaceted lineup of movies to appeal to a wide swath of the community, from the youngest children to filmgoers who might just be old enough to remember the era of black and while silents, with a few surprises and new releases thrown in for good measure.
“It’s not about the individual films per se — though I chose things I love — it’s to reflect the possibilities of the cinema and our desire to venture in different directions,” Vallan explained in a recent interview. “I wanted to combine locally and internationally mentioned films, emerging filmmakers and the great masters. The guiding principal was my desire to share great cinema and many different types of cinema and to basically treat it like a party, where there’s a lot for people to look at.”
The lineup this weekend includes vintage classics like “Speedy,” a 1928 silent feature and the last to star Harold Lloyd, and William Wellman’s 1937 flick “Nothing Sacred” starring Carole Lombard and Fredric March, representing one end of the film continuum, and on the other end, John Krazinski’s new horror sequel “A Quiet Place Part II,” an example of the very latest coming out of Hollywood. Sprinkled in-between are films many will agree are worthy of revival, including the 2013 sci-fi spectacle “Gravity” (starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney) and Alfonso Cuarón’s 2001 Mexican release “Y Tu Mamá También.”
“There’s not a great history in our area of repertoire programs so we felt classics and silent film to be important,” Vallan said. “‘Y Tu Mamá También’ is an interesting choice since it’s by a well-known Mexican director working in the U.S. But with that movie 20 years ago, he chose to go back to Mexico to make it, and it was such a defining point in his career.”
Vallan adds that although Alfonso Cuarón wasn’t available to take part in a Zoom Q&A about the film at the screening this weekend, his brother, Carlos Cuarón, who co-wrote the script with him, will be. And for Quentin Tarantino fans, this weekend the cinema will offer a rare 35mm screening of his 1994 film “Pulp Fiction” preceded by a compilation of Tarantino trailers from the collection of the cinema’s projectionist (and 35mm aficionado) Yves Leibowitz.
“A Tarantino film was a natural, and I always thought ‘Pulp Fiction’ would be a good title to bridge with something later in the summer,” Vallan said. “‘Pulp Fiction’ is very popular and it’s so fun and sexy and cinematic, and it has been on my mind from very first time I thought of an opening.
“Tarantino is one of the major proponents of 35mm and a film collector in his own right,” he added. “What better than to show one of his greatest films to inaugurate our 35mm equipment? And our projectionist has a great collection of trailers in 35mm.”
Though 35mm films were the industry standard not all that long ago, for movie theaters, renting them is not always an easy proposition in this day of digital projection. Fortunately, Vallan noted, she has a good relationship with a number of studios and archives and expects to bring a number of 35mm screenings to the cinema going forward.
“Because 35mm is rarer, they have become more reluctant to rent them,” she said. “But if you build a relationship of trust you can have them. There’s an interesting network of private collectors, like Tarantino, Martin Scorsese and Joe Dante. You can reach out to them and if the venue is reliable, they’ll lend their prints. There is also a network of private collectors who make it their cause to buy prints and save them and in certain cases, they’ll rent them.”
At the old Sag Harbor Cinema, foreign and art movies were the primary focus, and films that appealed to children rarely made it to the screen. So for Vallan, a major priority is to offer matinées for the youngest viewers. On opening weekend, she has selected Disney’s 1951 animated feature “Alice in Wonderland,” which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year.
“We always said we’d have matinées for children and families, and it seemed like a nice one to start with,” said Vallan, who, during the cinema’s soft opening, was pleased to see movies like the animated “Wolf Walker” and the Oscar-winning documentary “My Octopus Teacher” bringing in a younger crowd.
“The real surprise for me was the children. They immediately came. I imagined there would be a desire for something like that, but I couldn’t imagine they’d show up on day one,” Vallan said. “When I saw children come in the theater I was pinching myself because they were never there before. That’s important to me.”
Also important to Vallan is paying tribute to local legendary filmmaking talent, and to that end, on May 28, the cinema will host a screening of D.A. Pennebaker’s 1967 documentary “Dont Look Back” about musician Bob Dylan. Pennebaker, who died in 2018, was a longtime resident of Sag Harbor with his wife and filmmaking partner, Chris Hegedus. An exhibition of some of Pennebaker’s vintage film equipment will be on view at the cinema along with framed still images of Dylan from the film. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Hegedus and a special appearance by former “Saturday Night Live” band leader and Dylan collaborator G.E. Smith who will perform some Dylan songs.
In a nod to the area’s next generation of directors, this weekend’s program will also include a screening of shorts by local young filmmakers, including one, coincidentally, by Pennebaker’s grandson, Nick Whelan. Other weekend events include a pop-up animation workshop for kids 12 and under, and a discussion on Latin American cinema offered in both English and Spanish.
“One of the guiding principles is the way this cinema was rebuilt. There’s nothing like it, the effort, the enthusiasm, the roller coaster we went through,” Vallan said. “It is meant to be a cinema, but also a little special.”
Sag Harbor Cinema is at 90 Main Street, Sag Harbor. All tickets are available online at sagharborcinema.org
Opening Weekend Films
“A Quiet Place Part II,” John Krasinski (2021)
“A Quiet Place Part II” is the highly anticipated sequel following the Abbott family as they continue to fight for survival in silence. Along with the expansion of the cast, director John Krasinski calls it, “much bigger and much scarier” than the first film.
With silence at the center of the film, the sound design becomes a crucial part of the storytelling. That’s why Sag Harbor Cinema is pleased to announce “A Quiet Place Part II” is available in Atmos in Cinema 1. Atmos allows the sound designers to plan exactly where in the theater they want a certain sound to appear, making the surround sound three-dimensional. To further explain the importance of soundscape in a film, the celebrated sound designer Leslie Shatz (“Carol,” “12 Years a Slave”) joins Ms. Vallan prior to a special screening of the film.
The Hegedus/Pennebaker Retrospective + G.E. Smith
“Dont Look Back” (1967)
Sag Harbor Cinema will devote its first retrospective tribute to cinéma vérité legend D.A. Pennebaker and his longtime collaborator, and partner in life, Chris Hegedus. The retrospective, running through 2021 into 2022, officially opens the Memorial Day weekend programs on Friday, May 28, with a screening of “Dont Look Back,” Pennebaker’s seminal portrait of Bob Dylan, which set the standard for most “rockumentaries” to come. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Chris Hegedus. In a special appearance, former “Saturday Night Live” band leader and Dylan collaborator G.E. Smith will perform select Dylan songs for attendees.
The start of the Hegedus/Pennebaker retrospective will also be accompanied by a special exhibit, made of their pioneering gear — some used for the film — and a series of prints from the film’s frames. It will be held on the cinema’s third floor
“Nothing Sacred,” William Wellman (1937)
“‘Nothing Sacred’ solves no peace problems. ‘Nothing Sacred’ solves no labor problems. ‘Nothing Sacred’ solves absolutely nothing but your entertainment problems,” claims the voiceover in the trailer of “Nothing Sacred.” Yet, William Wellman’s 1937 comedy, scripted by Ben Hecht, reaches well beyond the classic “battle of the sexes” screwball scenario. Taking aim at Frank Capra’s idealized small-town America (in the film, tiny Warsaw, Vermont, is just as ruthless and cynical as a New York City newsroom) and at the obsession with celebrity culture, “Nothing Sacred” is a satire for our times, made several decades before anyone ever heard of “influencers” or “fake news.” Produced by David O. Selznick, this (love) story of a factory-girl (Carol Lombard) that fakes incurable radium poisoning, and the reporter who enables her deception (Fredric March), was restored by The Museum of Modern Art through a process that brought back its naturalistic, unusually desaturated use of Technicolor.
“Y Tu Mamá También,” Alfonso Cuarón (2001)
In collaboration with Cinema Tropical, Sag Harbor Cinema presents a special viewing of “Y Tu Mamá También,” Alfonso Cuaron’s acclaimed return to his Mexican roots after two well received films in Hollywood. The film also put the two young actors, Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, on the map.
The screening is the first of a series of events th cinema is planning as a tribute to the 20th anniversary of Cinema Tropical, the leading presenter of Latin American cinema in the United States. Introduced by CT founder Carlo Gutierrez, this screening will be followed by a Q&A with Carlos Cuarón, the co-writer of the film. Free reception to follow in the Green Room.
The screening will be preceded by a talk on the cinema’s third floor.
“Alice in Wonderland” (1951)
“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense.” — Alice
Join Sag Harbor Cinema for the first of its kids and family classics matinées and head down the rabbit hole all over again with Disney’s animated classic, “Alice in Wonderland,” on its 70th anniversary.
Walt Disney had already explored Lewis Carroll’s adventuresome heroine in the early 1920s, with a hybrid live action/animation series, “Alice’s Wonderland.” Given the tight control the Carroll estate exercised on its property, Disney never really warmed up to this 1951 animated feature adaptation, which was designed by the best animators in the studio, the legendary Nine Old Men. Despite being nominated for an Academy Award, the film was hardly a box office success, but gained widespread popularity after students rediscovered it in the 1960s and ’70s and appreciated the colorful psychedelics.
“The Story of a Three Day Pass,” Melvin Van Peebles (1968)
Adding a touch of his own experiences in the Air Force, and the flavor of the French New Wave to his adaptation of the novel “La Permission,” Melvin Van Peebles wrote and directed his first feature, “The Story of a Three Day Pass” with a $60,000 grant from the French Cinema Center. Unable to find a filmmaking assignment in Hollywood due to the unwillingness to hire an African American filmmaker, Van Peebles had been invited to Paris by the founder of the Cinémathèque Française. In this film Van Peebles explores France’s contradictory attitude toward race and the psychology of an interracial relationship in this playful, yet subversive, film. His sarcastic style in “The Story of a Three Day Pass” laid the groundwork for his revolutionary hit film, “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.” This film has been restored by IndieCollect.
“If ‘Gravity’ were half as good as I think it is, I’d still consider it one of the great moviegoing experiences of my life, thanks to the precision and beauty of its filmmaking.” — Matt Zoller Seitz, Roger Ebert
The “Gravity” trailer in Dolby Atmos was one of the highlights of Sag Harbor Cinema tours in recent months. Come back to Theater 1 and experience this Academy Award winning film in all its visual greatness and marvelous soundscape. Featuring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in space coupled with the storytelling mastery of Alfonso Cuarón, “Gravity” set a new standard for stunning modern visual effects.
“Pulp Fiction” (1994)
Preceded by a compilation of Tarantino trailers from the collection of Sag Harbor Cinema projectionist, Yves Leibowitz
“I thought I was writing a crime film anthology. What Mario Bava did with the horror film in ‘Black Sabbath’ I was gonna do with the crime film. Then I got totally involved in the idea of going beyond that, doing what J.D. Salinger did with his Glass family stories where they’re all building up to one story, characters floating in and out. It’s something that novelists can do because they own their characters, they can write a novel and have a lead character from three novels back show up … I’ve had faith in this movie all this time and I had no idea my faith was gonna be paid back so well.” — Quentin Tarantino (1994)
Sag Harbor Cinema will screen cult classic “Pulp Fiction” as a late-night 35mm print. One of Tarantino’s most famous movies, and probably the most iconic title of the ’90s, “Pulp Fiction” is truly a movie by and for movie lovers.
“Speedy” was the last silent feature to star Harold Lloyd — and one of his very best. The slapstick legend reprises his “Glasses Character,” this time as a good-natured but scatterbrained New Yorker who can’t keep a job. He finally finds his true calling when he becomes determined to help save the city’s last horse-drawn streetcar, which is operated by his sweetheart’s crusty grandfather. From its joyous visit to Coney Island and its incredible Babe Ruth cameo to hair-raising climactic stunts on the city’s streets, “Speedy” is an out-of-control love letter to New York that will have film fans grinning from ear to ear.
The film will be followed by the short documentary “In the Footsteps of Speedy,” (2015) an insightful look at the iconic filming locations of “Speedy” all across New York City, directed by Bruce Goldstein.
Sound Visions: A short films program by local filmmakers
SHC welcomes local filmmakers for a special shorts program. Along with a screening of each, the up and coming filmmakers will discuss the films during a Q&A with Artistic Director Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan. The shorts include festival favorites and a first look at some brand new material.
“Wiggle Room,” Sam Guest & Julia Baylis (14 mins.)
“Negative Two,” Micaela Durand & Daniel Chew (28 mins.)
“The Snowy Day,” Lucien Smith (8 mins.)
“In Time,” Theo Gray (4 mins)
“Stem,” Nick Wheelan (14 mins.)
“I’ll Be Here for a While,” Dylan Pailes-Friedman and Dakota Pailes-Friedman (11 mins.)
Sag Harbor Cinema opens an exhibition of Hegedus-Pennebaker’s pioneering 16mm filmmaking gear, some of which was used in the making of “Dont Look Back” and a series of frame enlargements from the film itself.
Friday, May 28, 3 to 6 p.m. Advance registration suggested. Free.
Little Animation Studios Presents: Pop-up Stop Motion Station
Kids ages 12 and under are invited to come learn the basics of stop-motion animation and help make a trailer for the cinema.
Saturday, May 29, 3 to 6 p.m. Timed entry with advance registration. Free.
Cinema Tropical Presents: Cinema Para Todos — Latin American Cinema Today and Tomorrow
The last two decades have witnessed a cinema renaissance throughout Latin America, as well as the emergence of talented Latinx filmmakers in the United States, some of whom live on the East End. Cinema Tropical’s co-founder and Executive Director Carlos Gutiérrez will be in conversation with Carlos Sandoval, award-winning filmmaker and Express News Group columnist, and Minerva Perez, the executive director of Organización Latino-Americana, or OLA, a Latino-focused nonprofit supporting arts, education and advocacy on the East End and a Sag Harbor resident. The conversation will provide an overview of the golden period of Latin cinema and its future direction, including the new wave of U.S. Latinx filmmakers. The talk will be introduced by Vallan, and moderated by Cinema Tropical’s director of strategic partnerships and special projects, Mary Jane Marcasiano.
In English and Spanish with translation by OLA board member Ana Kestler
Sunday, May 30, 5 p.m. Limited seating with advance registration. Free.