Katie Lee and Sag Harbor’s Philanthropic Spirit

Katie Lee. Photo by Jean Philippe Piter
Katie Lee. Photo by Jean Philippe Piter

By Kathryn G. Menu

Katie Lee, a 14-year resident of the South Fork, an Emmy nominated co-host of the Food Network’s “The Kitchen,” and a cookbook author who authored “Endless Summer Cookbook,” a volume dedicated to cuisine inspired by the East End of Long Island, is one of 20 members of a Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center Advisory Board. Led by “American Masters” created Susan Lacy, that board includes Julie Andrews, Hamptons International Film Festival executive director Anne Chaisson, screenwriter Bill Collage, Guild Hall executive director Andrea Grover, documentary film makers D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, public relations executive Shawn Sachs, and actor Harris Yulin, among many other celebrated artists, businesspeople, and local residents.

This week, Ms. Lee talked with The Express about her own memories of the Cinema, and why it is so critical residents in Sag Harbor — and beyond — support the project to resurrect and expand the historic cinema space.

How did you first become involved with the Sag Harbor Cinema project?

I remember watching the news on the morning of the fire. It was heartbreaking to watch the firemen with icicles on their hats in the bitter cold, working so hard, as the businesses on our Main Street lost everything and the demise of our beloved Sag Harbor Cinema.  I worried that our town would never be the same.  About a month ago, Shawn Sachs asked me if I would like to be involved with the Sag Harbor Partnership and I jumped at the opportunity.

You are a part of a tremendously talented advisory board. What do you think you can bring to this project?

It is quite a group and I am humbled to be a part of it.  I am hoping that, collectively, we can all focus our enthusiasm for the cause to get this job completed.  Time is of the essence though, we need every contribution we can get to save our iconic landmark cinema.

What has the process been like so far, working on this endeavor?

The people of our area have an incredibly philanthropic spirit and a real passion to preserve our history. It is very motivating.  I have really enjoyed getting to know some of my neighbors through this, especially April Gornik, who is a force to be reckoned with!

As a longtime East End resident, how important is the Cinema to South Fork culture?

The arts in general are important to the East End and such a part of our foundation. There is a reason so many incredibly talented artists call our community home.

Any standout memories of your own experience at the Cinema? 

I mostly remember that the seats were uncomfortable and there was a funny smell.  When we rebuild, that won’t be the case.

What are your hopes for some of the programming at the Cinema if this venture is successful?

The Cinema’s main screen will show first-run independent, documentary, and foreign films as well as Hollywood productions that don’t always make it to a multiplex.  There will be two additional screens that will be used for a variety of series and retrospectives. The Cinema will also collaborate with other local organizations to be a true center for the arts, right here in Sag Harbor.

Obviously, right now raising this funding is critical. What would you say to members of the arts community, or the South Fork in general, about why they should put their money towards the Cinema’s resurrection? 

In addition to all of the contributions the Cinema will bring to the arts community, its rebuilding will also preserve our town.  The neon Sag Harbor Cinema sign made Main Street special.  Would you rather see a big business in its place?