The Virtual Memory Wall
Inspired by other public outpourings of expression at times of crisis, we started this wall after the December 16, 2016 fire to invite the community to remember the Cinema.
Please share whatever you would like, writing and photos (but only if the photos are yours, please) of our brave First Responders, the merchants affected by the fire, the Cinema, etc. by sending to: email@example.com and we'll get them up on the wall for you. And please let us know if you want your name added to what you send. And big thanks to Renée Shafransky for this great idea!
Thank you for keeping our collective memories alive!
Photo Credits L-R: Gail Gallagher
Oh, Sag Harbor Cinema. Remember the woman in the booth who sold paper tickets off an old-fashioned roll? How sometimes she'd appear seconds later at the door to rip your ticket, hand you a stub and tell you to "enjoy the show"? Remember the six white napkins arranged in a fan on the popcorn counter? And that titanic screen? How lucky we were to have our very own movie palace. The countries we traveled to in there. The human stories we saw unfold. Like the very sad Polish film, "Ida," in beautiful black and white.
I loved so many of them.
- Renée Shafransky
I always knew I’d see whatever great films were available in NYC eventually at the Sag Harbor Cinema. I depended on it as a cultural life line, and I was PROUD of it being here. I miss it and I’ll continue to miss it.
Moonlight was the last film I saw there...
– April Gornik
Membership card from Sharon Gray
Photo Credit: Gail Gallagher
My favorite thing about the Sag Harbor Cinema is that when you go to an 8:00 movie, at 8:00, the movie just starts. It is so simple and pure. Everywhere else you have to watch 20 minutes of ads and trailers and feel like leaving even before the movie has begun.
That horrible day, but how amazing were our First Responders. They are the BEST. - April Gornik
Couple at Sag Harbor Theater, 2015 Photo Credit: Lindsay Morris
I’ve never lived in a town without a movie theater. Nor do I want to.
When the cinema was built, Sag Harbor had a robust economy, the Alvin Sterling Silver Co. was hiring and the future was positive and wide open. It was a healthy economy and the optimism that comes with it that built the iconic Sag Harbor Cinema and has, for me, always felt like the anchor and the symbol of this town's pride of place.
– Eric Fischl
I remember in the colder months of the early 80s my wife, Susan, and I had our Friday night routine. We would get together with our closest friends, who have since retired to Ireland, Mike and Julie Hennessy. We would meet to share a meal at The Corner Bar. After, at that time our reasonably priced meal, we would head over to The Cinema. Each couple carried a blanket and a number of copies of that week's newspapers. Once in the cold theater we would head down the left isle, taking a row behind each other as we headed, as close as we could get, toward the cast iron, steam radiators. As the radiators would hiss and bang as they made their feeble attempt to heat the area we carefully placed our newspapers on the floor. Putting our feet on the stacked papers gave us relief from the chilling cement that would otherwise have crept up our legs, eventually forcing us to leave. After throwing the blankets over our legs and huddling as close as possible we were ready for the show to begin.
Today, Susan and I still have our Cinema routine. We always walk down the left isle to row five and cross over to the fifth and sixth seats. Times change, we miss our dear friends, but we don't miss our blankets nor newspapers.
– Bob Fisher
I took this photo on Oct. 7, 2016 when two friends and I went to see The Beatles documentary, Eight Days A Week.
We got there a little early and upon entering the theater and seeing it was empty, I had the impulse to take a photo. It seemed very random, in hindsight, as I have been to the theatre many times before but something compelled me to take a photo that night.
It was quite serendipitous as that would be the last time I would ever see a film in that theatre. I treasure this photo both as a memory and for following my instinct.
In 1948, when I was 17 years old, I went to the cinema and took a seat like I had always done in NYC.
A woman came over to me and told me to get up and that I had to sit on the right hand side where all these youngsters were seated. Turns out she was hired by the theatre to supervise all the children.
All I can say was I was horrified! Felt insulted.
– Nada Barry
Photo Credit: Gail Gallagher
For over 25 years, our family has spent a good part of almost every summer and many winter holidays with our clan of dearest friends in Sag Harbor. Your beautiful, historic town is like a second home to us. One of our greatest joys and usually an early activity was seeing an amazing indie, foreign or documentary film at Sag Harbor Cinema. It was charmingly old-school and we’d usually see something fantastic and run into someone we knew, even at a 5:00 show.
In November, when we arrived for our last visit, we received a delightful Sag Harbor jigsaw puzzle, the perfect project for a rainy day. The first thing we did was spend a few absorbing hours putting the pieces of the iconic sign together to form the image that most represented the village to us, before moving on to all of the other beloved locales in Sag Harbor. That sign always took center stage and the village won’t be the same without it. On our many walks into the village, we’d do a little vintage shopping at Collette, have a coffee and a scone, and always, the countless times we’d walk up and down Main Street, we’d peruse the movie posters and plan which one to see next.
A few days after our departure, when news of the fire reached us in Los Angeles, we experienced the bereft, helpless feeling of loss that follows a tragic event, but we were so grateful to hear that no one was injured, that the volunteer firemen from SH and all of the surrounding areas were quick on the scene and that the community was intact and talking of rebuilding. Our thoughts and prayers are with the residents and all who suffered from the fire. Hopefully, the residents of this mighty little town will find a way to honor the history of Sag Harbor Cinema and preserve the dignity of Main Street as they move forward.
– Michele Pietra
For me, the Sag Harbor Cinema has always been the heart of Main Street with its iconic sign from the ‘30’s. I loved that even on Division Street one could look down Washington St and see it, making no mistake – you were in Sag Harbor. Soon after Will and I moved to Sag from the west coast, the town was in peril of losing the sign until the efforts of Brenda Siemer and Joe Pintauro intervened. They successfully raised $20,000 from Sag Harborites to recreate it. It was this spirit that affirmed we had moved to the right place. We were there to see Moonlight two nights before the theater we came to love blazed to the ground.
– Annette Chandler
Photo Credit: Gail Gallagher
One of my favorite things about living in Sag Harbor was having a theatre that showed independent and foreign films. It gave the village a certain cachet and alleviated boredom in the off-season. I already miss the welcoming facade and only hope that it (and the movies) will
– Elizabeth Gilbert
December 16, 2016: So sad ... we are so grateful that no one was injured.... thank you to the brave Firefighters who traveled from far and near to help ... the Sag Harbor Theater is a great cultural loss as well as a destination venue for the village businesses...
Our residents and business people are true survivors with great spirit... I know somthing good will come from this terrible inconvenience...
Tulla Booth, whose photo is at left
AAH - the Sag Harbor Cinema – whose facade was the town's logo. It was such a comforting place to spend time, something you'd expect in a landmark village. I, too, remember the little lady who collected money in the entry booth, then MUST have FLOWN to the back to take your tickets.
Then there was the art deco table lamp in the ladies' room that had fire hazard written all over it – maybe a gladiola design, or something similar from that era. And the seats! Such playful and irregular springs made every movie feel like the Poseidon Adventure.
In this world of sameness and space-age technology, it was nice that SOMETHING stayed the same. Bless the Sag Harbor Cinema. We hope to see ye back again soon.
– Susan Dusenberry
Image: Susan Dusenberry
I remember waiting outside with my husband – mid-week, mid- winter, in bone chilling cold – for a friend to join us to see Genius at 4 pm. No one else was there. From what we had been told, unless there were at least five people the movie would not run. Our friend showed up and the three of us stood there scanning Main Street, freezing, with acute anticipation. A minute before 4pm a car drove up and parked. A couple got out and walked toward the cinema. I wanted to hug them and call them family. The movie ran with us five.
I still think of going there for a movie all the time. Fandango still lists it with the caveat "No movie time listed. Check back." We will all keep checking back.
– Hilary Loomis
Photo Credit: Pat Field
The Sag Harbor Express’s coverage of the fire was magnificent. They are such a great paper, and the photos Michael Heller did that day were stunning. They embodied the heroism of our First Responders, the quick action of the Mayor and other elected officials, the saving of the iconic Cinema sign, and of course the devastation, with dignity.
Check out a fascinating article by Doug Feiden titled “A Century of Celluloid in Sag Harbor”, published not that long ago in the Sag Harbor Express. Click on these great photos of the interior of the Cinema by Express photographer Michael Heller for a link to the article.
Photo Credit:Michael Heller
Photo Credit:Michael Heller
Photo Credit: Gail Gallagher
Came out of the Sag Harbor Cinema after the late show, the film, as most often at the Sag Cinema, very fine, streets covered in snow, quiet, so quiet, one imagined a hush over the world . We stood in the womb of the entrance beneath the sign, Mark said, “You could fire a cannon down the street.” We stayed for a bit, cold, in the womb, in the center.
– Harris Yulin
In the ‘90s, keeping the iconic 1930 cinema sign was no easy job. Would have been a lot easier to have just any old sign. But Brenda Siemer Scheider got a crew to take down that historic sign for safety instead of salvage. They stowed its awkward length and bulk in a holy haven: the back yard of the Whaling Museum, the lovely weed strewn lot between Garden and Howard Streets. Hidden in the tall grass, it stayed there until Brenda raised the 20k to hire experts to replace it. Where are the plans, where the drawings, where the templates for renewing that Jazz Age beauty? Let’s have our sign back again! Pristine. On a cinema. Yes we can.
– Mac Griswold
Not until the fire did I realize how much the Sag Harbor Cinema was central to my happiness in Sag. The long, cold winter was made bearable by the presence of the cinema and the variety of films it offered. I never worried about spending a weekend alone in the country as long as the Sag Harbor Cinema was there. I loved it all—the woman who took our money, gave us tickets (and did so at her own cadence)…and then magically appeared at the door to take those tickets. I tried to make her smile and was occasionally successful. The last time I was there—sometime in November—a woman in line was complaining loudly about the mildew smell in the theater. I smiled to myself and thought…how different the experience is for me…I loved the mildew smell and the broken down seats…it made me feel like I was home. I loved the old bones of the place….reassuring in some strange way that all that is old is not bad.
– Victoria Sharp
Photo Credit: Gail Gallagher
I love the SAG HARBOR cinema sign. It proudly anchored our Main Street and announced our town by the sea that is so steeped in history. Even the typeface and the neon told a part of that story.
That so many current independent films from all over the world came to our village is extraordinary. Access to these movies made our small town more than just a resort or a comfortable place to live. These films brought new ideas from all over the world.
They were always the films I wanted to see. Even if I didn’t catch the film, eyeing the posters as I walked reminded me of a world beyond my own.
I hope we can get that back.
Thank you to everyone who helped during the fire.
– Casey Chalem Anderson
Though my heart is so broken over the loss of our beloved theater, I am left with so many amazing memories of nights spent in the magical darkness. Ever since moving to Sag Harbor 29 years ago, seeing the theater light & sign shine in town let me know that I was really home. I loved entering the theater and seeing the same familiar faces at the ticket booth and the napkins lined so perfectly on the counter. Though I never once entered the ladies room in all of those years, I was always transfixed by the couch, lamp and green glow emanating from that space. Each time I glanced in that direction, I imagined a film that I too was in. I was always excited to be there, present and waiting, and also looking forward to what the next film would be. I usually would go alone, for it was a time to just be, sneaking into that vast cavernous space, sliding down into my seat, waiting to be transported worlds away……
– Susan Lazarus-Reimen
Photo Credit: Gail Gallagher
I for one loved the pale peach ladies’ room, with its ‘couch” for those who felt faint after a movie...
– Mac Griswold
In 1975 when I was still a college student and working at Baron's Cove Marina there was nothing to do most evenings. Jaws the movie had just come out and was the only movie playing all summer long at the Sag Harbor theatre. Many evenings I would just sneak in after the movie had started and the attendants had left, to pass the time watching the now classic movie.
– Derek Ebeling-Koning
"Roller Coaster" had been playing for eight weeks in Sag Harbor when Gerald Mallow purchased the Sag harbor Theater in 1978. It certainly had not been an "Art House" .
The transformation began with "Madame Rosa", in French with subtitles, starring Simone Signoret. It was so well received by the community that Mr Mallow was encouraged to continue programming foreign and "arthouse" films.
That is when the Sag Harbor Theater became the SH Cinema. – FDM
Two photos by Laurie Lambrecht. We’re not even going to ask about the rubber chicken... it’s Sag Harbor!
Longtime ticket-taker Mrs. Mortensen.
Photo Credit: Ann Chwatsky
Don’t miss a wonderful tribute to the Sag Harbor Cinema, The Last Picture Show, by Richard B. Woodward, published December 23, 2016 in The Paris Review. From the article:
Certain places retain their grip on memory out of all proportion to their social value or their function in your life, and the Sag Harbor Cinema did that for me. In an architectural landscape like New York, where nothing is safe from the forces of real-estate development, the theater had somehow escaped improvements. Its appearance and mode of operation changed barely at all in the more than three decades I was a patron. A proud ignorance of upheavals happening elsewhere in the industry was one source of the comfort the cinema provided.
Maybe it’s the romance and history of the harbor, but the Sag Harbor Cinema always reminded me of a ship. Its facade rose like an ocean liner's smokestack, and then there was its stark, red Deco neon bringing to mind old Hollywood films in which characters set sail dressed to the nines and smoking cigarettes with casual glamour - Bette Davis in Now, Voyager, Jean Harlow in Libeled Lady, Stanwyck and Fonda in The Lady Eve. And I bet these films played at our cinema. Our cinema, a place so familiar, safe and comforting, where we sailed away together.... We have to rebuild, relaunch.
– Kristen Lowman
Cinema Tickets courtesy of Jean Held
In case you missed it, check out the covers Dan’s Papers published about the artwork of the Cinema that graced their magazine 6 different times over the years... works of art showing a work of art that showed works of art!
Two wonderful whimsical paintings by John Wickersham
When I moved to Sag Harbor a year ago, I was instantly charmed by our very special local movie theater. There was a quality to the experience that reaffirmed how I felt about my new adopted home…totally authentic. Even all of its quirks made it another thing that brought the community of Sag Harbor together. Everybody loved telling their Sag Harbor movie stories. I went to see Room last winter and the power went out 5 minutes before the end. All 5 of us just stayed in our seats waiting for someone to come and explain the situation. We all finally shuffled out, bewildered, and struck up an animated conversation about the hypothetical ending.
The movies they showed were so good that we all put up with the freezing cold theater and uncomfortable seats. And how lucky were we to have such a great movie house in a village the size of ours! It was the hub of Main Street and a real jewel for everyone in so many ways. I so hope we see another movie theater take its place one day soon!
– Judi Caron
When I first visited Sag Harbor in 1982 I knew I wanted to live here someday, and truthfully the cinema was a big draw—where else could I get my fix of art films? And what could be better than sitting in the dark, dampish, heavy-curtained room, like a set piece from an Edward Hopper painting, reading subtitles. Heaven... It must rise again, there is nothing like it in all the East End.
– Melanie Fleishman
New York Movie by Edward Hopper
Two wonderful photos by Jean Held of the Color Guard at the 2013 Memorial Day Parade, and the Ladies' Room at the Cinema
The day that the sign was replaced in 2005 was a scene out of Amarcord. Small town living at its best. Our kids, then about five, will have that memory for life.
Tout Sag Harbor turned out to watch the new neon sign go up. Grenning Gallery was serving bubbly and (do I imagine this?) there was music. Cheers rang as the new sign was put in place, to glow brightly as before.
Everyone had given something according to his or her means to replace the iconic sign – almost lost in a trash bin – and we were right pleased with ourselves and our spirit.
The last film I saw there before the fire was Moonlight, an appropriately powerful and mystical film and exactly the reason we cherish this treasure so much. May the Cinema return even better.
Photo Credit: Ken Dorph
In my short 78 years I’ve lived in a lot of places - Southern California, Paris, France, the Pacific Northwest and New York City - before coming to settle here on the East End of Long Island. And nowhere else have I felt as much at home. The feeling of belonging to a place of course has a lot to do with the friends you make and the welcome you get from a community, but when I think about this place, the image of the Sag Harbor Cinema stands out in my mind … or is it in my gut … or my heart that it feels embedded? Yes, it’s a glowing neon sign that’s indelibly imprinted on my mind, but it’s a whole lot more than that - it’s countless experiences of very pleasurable movie going over the years that come to mind. It’s the kind of creative programming that’s rare to find outside places like New York’s Film Forum or the Angelika or IFC or the great regional art houses, so many of which have now passed into American film history.
Of course there are experiences associated with the Sag Harbor cinema that are not all about catching an important feature documentary that you couldn’t see anywhere else out here or an eagerly awaited great foreign film. Sometimes the comedy was in the theater rather than on the screen … like the time several years ago when my wife and I took advantage of a dinner and movie special at the American Hotel. It was a prix-fixe dinner on a cold winter’s night and a screening across the street of Babette’s Feast - perfect programming, perfect evening! Well, we made it across the street just in time for the opening credits, or at least we thought we did, but what was on the screen was entirely incomprehensible. We thought maybe we’d made a mistake about the schedule, but it became clear after 3 or 4 minutes that everyone else in the theater - all eight or nine of us - felt the same. Yep, you guessed it - the projectionist had gotten the reels mixed up or maybe they were in the wrong cases. After some laughter and a little groaning, the problem was corrected, and far from being a source of irritation, it turned out to be one of those amusing shared incidents that we we’ve all experienced or heard about over the years… and that we’ll long remember with fondness.
I can’t believe … or accept … that it’s over.
– Don Lenzer
Sag Harbor Cinema, 1956 photo of my then heartthrob, Joe Silvey, and the $0.80 ticket stub - a momento of our date there....I had not seen Joe in many years because he moved away, and I was one of those "Summer people", but we bumped into each other after he returned and became a real estate agent at Harbor Cove, Carl Marino's company. Sadly, Carl died a few years ago, Harbor Cove is long gone, but the 3 of us - and dozens more local and City kids - spent many happy hours growing up together in the 1950s at "The Shack" on Long Beach, Trout Pond (private property in those days), The Paradise, on Main Street, and of course, The Sag Harbor Cinema. Even though we all went our separate ways, the bonds of friendship remained among many of us. The recent photo of Joe and me seemed an apt way to commemorate those wonderful times.
– Marie Sansone-Taylor. We loved seeing this so much!
Great memory of my parents Hal and Florence Josephs, enjoying Memorial Day 2006 on our Main St.
We’re so excited that the sign will soon by back up in place!
– Beth Josephs, Memorial Day 2017
A wonderfully mysterious phot of the Cinema by Randie Wasserman
Going to the Sag Harbor Cinema Saturday matinee was a regular event in my childhood. My parents gave us 50¢ each—that paid for the entry ticket at 35¢, popcorn at 10¢ and a candy bar at 5¢. I can still summon up Day of the Triffids tentacling the screen. It scared the heck out of us. I wonder why we were allowed to go alone to all these really scary movies, like Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and The Haunting? Different times, but what a thrill! And when it turned into an arts cinema, it showed films you’d have to go to Westhampton, or horrors, New York City, to see. I can summon up the unusual musty smell of the theater and its seats that had a kind of mushy quality you could really sink into. The people who worked there also live in my memory, manager Mr. Fick, whose one elevator shoe fascinated us as kids, and the gentlemanly Larry Gay. Vive le cinéma Sag Harbor!
– Linda Sherry
Photo Credit: Nick Gazzolo
Fingers frozen, one hand raised to the smudged night sky
Scott guides the head of the excavator down into the rubble.
Like a prehistoric beast foraging,
it nudges burnt remains of movie posters and hunks of sheetrock.
Delicately, like a mother would her cub,
it takes a corner of bent red metal into its lips.
“Up,” Scott shouts, his voice sharp and loud
as on most carefree summer nights,
on the patio over cigarettes, on his speedboat in the bay.
Only this time there’s no trace of laughter.
You can almost hear the lump in his throat,
50 years in this town swallowed down in one painful gulp.
With an ear-splitting creak, the excavator lifts its neck,
and the H and then the A can be seen rising from the ash.
As the machine travels higher, the RBOR follow upwards
and a word – Harbor - is held perpendicular to the earth.
We are freezing, huddled; we are neighbors, family.
So much seems to be dangling in mid-air as we all hold our breath.
Scott guides the sign across Main Street, to rest beside “SAG”,
so it leans against a lamp post in front of the pizza place,
like a familiar guy on a random afternoon.
Sag Harbor on the ground,
A vacant hole where the heart of the town used to beat.
But nobody expected snow today,
and it’s falling down in handfuls,
making everything look like it’s been kissed by fairies.
Greetings Good People!
Thanks to all for managing this inspired community cultural collaboration in my hometown of Sag Harbor. My family has roots here since 1946, when my parents moved from Brooklyn to set up my Dad’s dental practice on Main Street, across from the cinema building. My brothers and I grew up here, graduated from Pierson High, and as youngsters attended the movie theater in its earlier days, before it evolved into a fine art cinema.
My first horror movie experiences there left powerful impressions on me: The Thing!, The Blob, Frankenstein, Godzilla, Creature from the Black Lagoon. And early femme-centrics like GiGi and Lily, Moon River, Sound of Music and The Parent Trap gave my young self a sense of wonder and possibility.
A bit of Kelman family-lore is that all four of us kids got kicked out of the movie theater over the years for various infractions, the most notorious being a brother peeing down the aisle.
For me, every time I’ve been to the movies here in recent years, the old memories are meshed in delight with the cinema’s evolution into the best art movie house I could hope for.
I imagine this is true for many of Sag Harbor’s long-time residents. An invitation to locals to share pre-art house anecdotes might round out the deeper story of this cultural icon and engage even more supporters who feel their early experiences valued as well.
Many thanks for the vision and all the hard work.
The Kelman Family is onboard for the race!
In winter 1978, Rebecca and I had a memorable evening at the Cinema. We went to see an italian film with english subtitles. I don’t remember the title but it featured Luciana Paluzzi. I took note of that because my college roommate had a thing for Paluzzi, whose name had been unknown to me. It was a cold night in the dead of winter so only a handful of people were in the audience. The film began. It was not great but was engaging enough. After a while a momentary flicker signaled the beginning of the next reel. The small audience continued to watch intently. Again after a while a momentary flicker signaled the beginning of a final reel. It soon dawned on all that the second and third reels had been played out of sequence. No matter. Everyone stayed until the end.
There is in fact a back half to the evening, unrelated to the Cinema but equally memorable. It was snowing lightly when we got out. Rebecca and i walked across the street to the American Hotel bar for a glass of wine— fire in the fireplace in the bar and a recording of Josephine Baker playing. The following Monday I tracked down the recording at Rizzoli on Fifth Avenue. We played it many times to evoke that evening.
It is such a great village. The Cinema is at its heart.
– Philip Curtis
Wherever we visit (especially a place we hope to live someday), we always find ourselves at the movies. Can’t imagine a community that doesn’t have the anchoring joy of a cinema gathering place.
That’s why we were so sad to return to the Hamptons and see the aftermath of the fire. Going to Sag Harbor Cinema was a must do for every one of our East End visits over the years. It was the kind of place where you didn’t just see great movies inside. You also sometimes saw the talented people who make great movies standing on line with the rest of us outside.
We’re sure there were others, but the last film we can recall seeing before the fire was the beautiful “I Am Love”. An appropriate memory given that, for us, Sag Harbor Cinema is love. Out of the ashes, it will rise even greater than before.
– Cheryl and Marc Giattini
Photo Credit: Ken Dorph