Under new state guidelines unveiled by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center (WHBPAC) has reopened for in-person movie screenings and is now offering a full slate of movies each weekend.
“This is the first step towards us reopening, and we’re thrilled to have an audience once again,” said WHBAC Executive Director Julienne Penza-Boone. “We will have new protocols in place to limit contact and all attendees must submit to temperature checks so that we can ensure a safe experience for everyone.”
Director of sales Allison Frost has spearheaded the reopening of WHBPAC, which has offered movie screenings through its Rose and Don Ciampa World Cinema Series. Working with distributors immediately after the executive order was issued on October 17, Frost secured a curated weekly series from IFC Films and the Indie Theatre Revival Project to showcase acclaimed independent films of the past two decades. To celebrate the first milestone in the theater’s long path to reopening, ticket prices have been reduced to $9 each and without additional fees.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Frost and the WHBPAC staff have had to reimagine how to continue its world-class cinema series for homebound audiences.
“The film industry quickly moved to virtual cinema platforms, which enabled us to bring critically acclaimed movies to our patrons in the midst of the pandemic,” said Penza-Boone. “We virtually presented a Korean series in June and a BLM series in July, and more recently, ‘RBG’ about the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. This really highlights our mission to bring the performing arts to the communities we serve and promote inclusivity through the power of film.”
Here’s what’s coming up in the days ahead:
Friday, November 20, 8 p.m. — “Kampai! For the Love of Sake”
Discover the art of sake. An age-old staple of Japanese culture and cuisine, the fermented rice wine has recently been winning fans all over the world. This film journeys from rice paddies in Japan to breweries around the globe as it chronicles three passionate exponents of the increasingly popular beverage. Together, their stories form a fascinating snapshot of how ancient traditions are adapting to the demands of a growing global market.
Saturday, November 21, 4:30 p.m. — “The Search for General Tso”
This mouthwateringly entertaining film travels the globe to unravel a captivating culinary mystery. General Tso’s chicken is a staple of Chinese-American cooking, and a ubiquitous presence on restaurant menus across the country. But just who was General Tso? And how did his chicken become emblematic of an entire national cuisine? Director Ian Cheney (King Corn) journeys from Shanghai to New York to the American Midwest and beyond to uncover the origins of this iconic dish, turning up surprising revelations and a host of humorous characters along the way.
Saturday, November 21, 8 p.m. — “City of Gold”
In this richly penetrating documentary odyssey, Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold shows us a Los Angeles where ethnic cooking is a kaleidoscopic portal to the mysteries of an unwieldy city and the soul of America. With eternal curiosity, razor-sharp intellect, and existential longing, Gold is a culinary geographer taking us where no critic has gone before.
Sunday, November 22, 4:30 p.m. — “King Georges”
Spiced with archival footage and interviews from world-renowned chefs such as Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, and Eric Ripert, this film is a feast for the eyes, as well as a touching portrait of a master artist in the twilight of his career who realizes he is still hungry for seconds. Filmmaker Erika Frankel asks if she could film acclaimed French chef Georges Perrier as an era-ending tribute as he prepares to close his famed restaurant Le-Bec-Fin….Perrier, however, has other plans.
Friday, November 27, 8 p.m. — “A Christmas Tale”
Starring Catherine Deneuve in one of the standout hits of the Cannes, Toronto, and New York Film Festivals, this film is filmmaker Arnaud Desplechin’s dazzling, big-hearted and brilliantly black comedy of a fractured family returning home for the holidays. Desplechin’s masterful narrative has the breadth of a sprawling novel and the nimble wordplay of a classic comedy, while packing the full sensory wallop of pure cinema.
Saturday, November 28, 4:30 p.m. — “Let the Sunshine In”
Juliette Binoche delivers a luminous performance in the deliciously witty, sensuously romantic film from acclaimed director Claire Denis. Isabelle (Binoche) is a divorced Parisian painter searching for another shot at love, but refusing to settle for the parade of all-too-flawed men who drift in and out of her life. What reads like a standard romantic comedy premise is transformed, in the hands of master filmmaker Denis, into something altogether deeper, more poignant, and perceptive about the profound mysteries of love.
Saturday, November 28, 8 p.m. — “Things to Come”
What happens when the life you’ve worked so hard to build falls apart all at once? Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert, in a radiant performance) is a philosophy teacher with a seemingly settled existence. But beginning with the bombshell revelation that her husband of 25 years is leaving her, one by one the pillars of Nathalie’s life start to crumble. Winner of the Best Director award at the 2016 Berlin International Film Festival, the new film from Mia Hansen-Løve (Eden) is an uncommonly intelligent, soul-searching look at what it means to create a life of one’s own.
Sunday, November 29, 4:30 p.m. — “Two Days, One Night”
From Belgian directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Marion Cotillard, stars in universal story about working-class people living on the edges of society. After being faced with impending unemployment, Sandra (Cotillard) races against time over the course of the weekend to convince each of her fellow employees to sacrifice their much-needed bonuses so she can keep her job. With each encounter, Sandra is brought into a different world with unexpected results in this powerful statement on community solidarity.
Screenings are capped at a maximum of 50 people, and moviegoers must practice social distancing and mask wearing while at the theatre. Additionally, patrons must consent to temperature checks and a health waiver before entering.
Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center is at 76 Main Street, Westhampton Beach. Visit whbpac.org for details.