Front Street in Greenport Village was abuzz with activity on April 15 as volunteers for the new non-profit North Fork Arts Center, working to revitalize the Greenport Theater, held a an open house at the historic movie house.
The group does not yet own the theater and its 501(c)3 tax status is still in process with the IRS, but they’re close to reaching their goal. Owner Josh Sapan, who put the building on the market in January, has said he would donate the theater to the new non-profit if it is able to raise $1 million to cover its operating costs for a year.
Before the April 15 open house, dubbed “Volunteer Day,” the non-profit had raised more than $900,000 in pledges toward their goal, from more than 400 donors.
They raised more than $25,000 in pledges on Volunteer Day and are finishing out April with more than $940,000 in pledges.
The non-profit is still looking for volunteers — more info can be found on the “Volunteer” tab on the homepage of the website, nofoartscenter.org, where they’re looking for help with everything from projectionists to minor building repairs to ushering, leading workshops, event and programming planning and fundraising.
Volunteers who worked to spruce up the theater for the April 15 open house excitedly gave tours of the building and served up popcorn and lemonade in the art deco lobby of the classic theater, designed by architect John Eberson and built by Prudential Theaters in 1939, on the site of a theater built in 1915 that had been destroyed in the Hurricane of 1938.
The theater currently has four screens and a total of 632 seats.
Tony Spiridakis of the Manhattan Film Institute, which has been running programming in the theater for several years, is spearheading the effort for the new non-profit.
He excitedly gave The Beacon a tour of the alley adjacent to the theater, where artists have envisioned wrought iron sculptures highlighting the building’s fire escape. The alley leads to a side entrance and an indoor “Art Alley” en route to a screening room. The non-profit plans to hold art shows along the corridor and in the screening room.
He said the North Fork Arts Center is hoping to reopen the theater by the Christmas season this year.
Volunteer and playwright Tom Cavanaugh had traveled from New Jersey to be a part of the day’s festivities, where he supports his filmmaking ambitions by working as a 911 operator. He’s a graduate of the Manhattan Film Institute, where he made a short film about the Orient Service Center, “Service Me,” that is making the festival rounds.
“This is a once in a lifetime experience. This doesn’t happen every day,” he said. “This could have become condos or anything. It’s not every day that you get to help save a historic theater.” —BHY