SAG HARBOR, New York -- The historic Sag Harbor Cinema, literally rising from the ashes, is once again reeling in moviegoers.
The cinema, a cherished landmark in this charming Long Island village, has witnessed the story of 20th-century pop culture. It began as a vaudeville and burlesque theater in the 1890s, then became a silent movie house before moving on to talkies.
By 1978, it was one of the few single-screen art-house cinemas left in the country, thanks to the stewardship of Gerald Mallow, its owner and programmer for 38 years.
But the cinema almost became a casualty of the 21st century: It withstood a devastating fire in 2016 and then the ordeal of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. But with community support, the cinema stands strong anew.
"You can't miss the cinema, it's really at the heart of the village," said Genevieve Villaflor, acting executive director of the Sag Harbor Cinema. "People walk around and are always curious about what's playing. This is the place to discover something different and new."
Moviegoers are thrilled not simply to back in a movie theater, but to be back in this one, with its iconic Art Deco neon sign glowing anew.
"This is our first time back in a movie theater," since the COVID shutdown, said Allan Beinhorn, who's been seeing movies at the cinema with his wife for over 30 years.
"We like nothing better than to come back in this theater, which is without question our favorite theater in the world," Beinhorn said.
Unlike traditional chain movie theaters, the cinema has three screening rooms with limited movie times throughout the day, and one of the theaters can play movies on 35-millimeter film.
"Rather than seeing the blockbusters in AMC, this is a place where you can see independent films," said Leslie Rikon, who has watched movies at the Sag Harbor Cinema for over 30 years.
"It's a real art house," said Rikon.
Contact Community Journalist Alex Ciccarone