Billy Joel joins Sag Harbor Cinema effort

An artist rendering of the proposed Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center. (Credit: Courtesy photo)

It’s official. Billy Joel, one of the world’s most popular entertainers and a part-time resident of Sag Harbor, has stepped up to the plate and joined the campaign to save and rebuild the Sag Harbor Cinema.

Additional A-list supporters of the effort now include film director Martin Scorsese and producer Harvey Weinstein.

In the aftermath of the December 16, 2016 fire that devastated Sag Harbor’s Main Street, including the iconic Art Deco cinema, the non-profit organization Sag Harbor Partnership forged a deal with theater owner and Shelter Island resident Gerald Mallow to purchase the property and rebuild it as the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center, a non-profit facility.

The total purchase price is $8 million, and the Partnership needs to raise 75 percent of that, or $6 million, in donations and pledges by ‪July 1 to protect an anonymous $1 million donation that has already been pledged. Funds will be collected by ‪December 31, 2017.

The Partnership confirms that the cinema’s popcorn stand will be named for Billy Joel in honor of his generous gift to the cause. On the group’s website, naming rights for the popcorn stand are listed for a $500,000 donation.

With the Piano Man’s support, a total of $2,255,655 has been pledged for the effort so far.

“Billy has spent a lot of time in Sag Harbor. He knows exactly how much the sign and the cinema mean to all of Main Street,” said Nick Gazzolo, President of the Sag Harbor Partnership, in a release. “It’s so encouraging that he answered the call to help restore this landmark with such a generous gift. So many of his songs show his understanding of how much specific places mean to people, and we are so grateful that he agrees the Sag Harbor Cinema is a special place worth fighting for.”

In the release, famed director Martin Scorsese said, “I believe in the power of film not only to entertain, but to bring unsung heroes to life, and to change the world around us.”

“For as long as I can remember, the Sag Harbor Cinema has stood as a beacon of culture on Long Island,” Scorsese continued. “On the evening it was destroyed, the cinema was showing two European films, neither of which were considered blockbuster hits, but that wasn’t the point. This theatre was about art, and the ability for film to inspire people to persevere in the face of adversity.”

“I hope people from all over the East End will join in this fight to save Sag Harbor’s center of culture,” he said.

Though the cinema will be rebuilt with all of its original Art Deco charm, some major improvements are planned for the new theater including state-of-the-art equipment that will allow film — including digital, 35mm, and even 16mm formats — to be shown as intended with astonishing resolution.

Other heavy-hitters on Sag Harbor Partnership’s advisory board for the project include Anne Chaisson, Executive Director of the Hamptons International Film Festival, Wendy Keys, filmmaker and former Executive Producer/Programmer for the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Andrea Grover, Executive Director of East Hamptons’ Guild Hall and Founding Director of the Aurora Picture Show in Houston, Texas, Carol Ostrow, Producing Director of ‪The Flea Theater in Manhattan, Jacqui Lofaro, Executive Director of The Hamptons Take-2 Documentary Film Festival, and Oscar winning actress, singer and author Dame Julie Andrews.

All money raised for the cinema project is tax-deductible. For more information, visit ‪sagharborcinema.org.