By Kathryn G. Menu
While the Sag Harbor Partnership fell short of a fundraising goal of $6 million by its self-imposed July 1 deadline to purchase the former Sag Harbor Cinema property on Main Street, members of the non-profit on Friday said overwhelming support for the venture had led its board to the decision to move forward regardless, with donations reaching over $4.5 million by that afternoon, and climbing to over $4.6 million and counting by Wednesday morning.
“The entire Sag Harbor community and the whole East End should be extremely proud of the support we have received as we work to rebuild out beloved cinema,” Nick Gazzolo and April Gornik, the president and vice president of the Sag Harbor Partnership, said in a joint statement. “This cause has been taken up by residents and visitors who come from near and far and believe in the power of this movie theater to educate and inspire and to serve as a year-round cultural center for the East End community.”
“Our board met and looked at all the funds raised so far, upcoming events, and new supporters contacting us every day and made a unanimous decision to go forward with the contract,” they added. “We are excited about this next stage of the campaign. The number of people who join the effort every week is inspiring. There’s a lot of work to be done, but we have every confidence that the support is there to raise the additional funds by December to secure the purchase of the historic Sag Harbor Cinema.”
The Sag Harbor Partnership entered into contract with long time cinema owner Gerald Mallow in April. According to Mr. Gazzolo, the organization put down a $100,000 deposit with Mr. Mallow this spring, and gave Mr. Mallow the balance of a $1 million down payment when the contract went hard on July 5.
The $1 million will not be refunded if the project fails to succeed, with the remaining $7 million due to Mr. Mallow by the end of December.
The partnership plans on closing on the property on December 31, 2017, said Mr. Gazzolo, and if it is unable to raise the remaining $7 million would cancel all pledges and refund all donations. Fundraising began with a $1 million donation by acclaimed artist and North Haven resident Eric Fischl — Ms. Gornik’s husband. Since then, donations and pledges have come as small as $1 to push pledges beyond $4.6 million, with part time Sag Harbor resident Billy Joel supporting the project with a $500,000 contribution.
The Partnership has also developed an executive committee, finance committee and advisory board for the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center to guide the project as it moves from conception to reality. The executive committee includes Mr. Gazzolo as well as Ms. Gornik, Mr. Fischl, architects Randolph Croxton and Allen Kopelson, writer and film curator Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan, producer Andrew Fierberg, Stephen Hamilton and Emma Walton, landscape architect Edmund Hollander, financiers Ron Kaplan and Gregg Winter, documentary filmmaker, producer and writer Susan Lacy, attorney Susan Mead, psychoanalyst and village board member Robby Stein, and Shaun Woodward. The advisory board is led by Ms. Lacy, the creator of the PBS series, American Masters, and includes Julie Andrews, film composer Carter Burwell, Hamptons International Film Festival executive director Anne Chaisson, screenwriter Bill Collage, journalist and documentary director Alexandra Dean, filmmakers Chris Hegedus and DA Pennebaker and Guild Hall executive director Andrea Grover, among others.
The group hopes to restore the cinema’s famous Art Deco façade and its beloved neon “Sag Harbor” sign, which has become an unofficial trademark of the village. The Partnership has worked with Mr. Kopelson of NK Architects and Mr. Croxton on a design that calls for the division of the existing 480-seat auditorium into two separate screening rooms, one with 250 seats, the other with 150 seats. The ground-floor portion of the building that was once home to the RJD Gallery will be transformed into a café serving locally-sourced food. Above that, there would be a 30-seat screening room that would double as a classroom and be available for private events.
In addition to the $8 million needed to purchase the property, an additional $5 million is estimated for the cost of construction. The center will operate as a non-profit entity, making it eligible for federal, state and county funding.
On Wednesday, Mr. Gazzolo said since the news broke Friday that the Partnership would move forward with the Cinema purchase, it has received more donations, and support.
“Everyone knows now that we are committed to this,” he said.
On Sunday, July 16, the Partnership will host its annual event, this year coined, “Big Tent: Party for the Cinema” on Long Wharf in Sag Harbor. All funds raised at the event will support the purchase of the former cinema property.
“Susan Mead, Jayne Young and Hillary Loomis have been working tirelessly to pull this together,” said Mr. Gazzolo of three Sag Harbor Partnership board members who have led efforts to organize this year’s benefit. “It’s even bigger than it was last year, and they have made it all possible.”
“It’s the summer party you want to go to, at a price you can afford, and for a cause you can feel good about supporting,” he added.
For more information, visit sagharborpartnership.org.