The East End’s newest arts institution is Sag Harbor Cinema, which was on the verge of opening this spring after a three-year restoration project in the wake of the 2016 Main Street fire that devastated the original cinema.
But of course, COVID-19 waylaid those plans.
Stephen Hamilton is the cinema’s acting director, and he comes to the position with a wealth of knowledge, having co-founded the Bay Street Theater just down the street from the cinema in the early 1990s.
This week, he offered a sneak peek of how Sag Harbor Cinema may come on line in the months ahead.
“What we are doing is preparing for a safe operations plan for opening under phase four conditions,” explained Hamilton.
It’s important to know that even though construction materials have been removed from the front of the cinema, there are still a few weeks of construction inside left to do.
“I am reminded daily of our experience at Bay Street Theater during the last phase of construction in 1992 when our first production, ‘Men’s Lives,’ was ‘knocking at the door,’ needing to get on stage for technical rehearsals in preparation for opening. So I am keenly aware of those issues with the cinema.”
Issues related to opening a movie theater post-COVID include considerations such as audience density. How many seats can be occupied to maintain social distancing? Would all tickets be sold in advance? What about buying popcorn?
“We have begun a detailed survey of all of those issues,” Hamilton added, “advanced sales, identifying ‘touch points,’ concessions, cleaning and sanitizing, maintaining social distance inside the theaters. All the steps we need to take to keep our guests and our staff safe.
“As best practices in the industry emerge, we’re looking to incorporate both low- and high-tech solutions to the problem. We are all in the same boat!”