When the founders of Cinema Arts Centre first got Huntington residents together to watch independent films in 1973, moviegoers would bring their own chairs to a local dance studio and plop them on the floor facing a bedsheet hanging on the wall, where the films were projected.
When they outgrew the dance studio, filmgoers would sit on vintage couches and chairs from the thrift store below their new space on the second floor of an old firehouse.
By 1980, patrons sat in auditorium seating at the former school building at 423 Park Ave.
Moviegoers now sit on brand-new, comfy movie theater seats in that same building, which reopened in early 2022 after a pandemic closure and recent renovations.
But no matter the seating, Cinema Arts Centre has always kept the seats filled — even in today’s age of streaming services — because of the community.
“Our audience has been so supportive,” says Dylan Skolnick, co-director of Cinema Arts Centre. “That’s the biggest reason why wer’re still here: the support of the community.”
Skolnick’s parents, Vic Skolnick and Charlotte Sky, started the theater as New Community Cinema in 1973. They had recently moved from New York City and couldn’t find a place to watch independent films on Long Island — so they created their own. Longtime members often reminisce about their “sheet-on-the-wall” days, when Vic and Charlotte brought a projector borrowed from the library to a friend’s dance studio to informally watch movies.
Thorughout Cinema Arts Centre’s many iterations, its mission has always been the same: to foster community through the arts. But for that to happen, the community has to show up. Moviegoers have to pay for memberships. Local businesses have to engage. The Town has to show its support. And for 50 years, the not-for-profit has garnered that enthusiasm to keep the shows running.
“People’s viewing habits have changed with Covid and the rise of streaming servies,” says Nate Close, director of marketing and communication. “We are really grateful we still have dedicated supporters that come out and watch movies with us.”
Cinema Arts Centre is celebrates its 50th anniversary and opens a new chapter as a central arts hub in Huntington. Its three theaters, Skyroom Cafe, and multipurpose space all hold events and are places for the community to come together.
In celebration of 50 years, several local organizations and businesses, including The Folk Music Society of Huntington, The Next Chapter bookstore, and local comic shop Escape Pod Comics, will partner with Cinema Arts Centre for special events.
On Jan. 29, Butera’s Restaurant will help sponsor a special brunch screening of the Academy Award-winning Italian classic Cinema Paradiso. Cinema Arts Centre is also offering a kids’ series every Sunday at noon, including a showing of The Goonies on Feb. 12.
Viewings this year include the 1942 classic Casablanca, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part II (1974), The Never Ending Story (1984), and Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971), along with a 90th anniversary screening of King Kong (1933), and recent cult favorites such as Twilight (2008), and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004).
“We’re presenting a really wide range of programs, there’s really somethinh for everyone,” Skolnick says. “We have classic movies, we have cult movies, we have silent films with live musical accompaniment. We just started a comedy series. We do a lot of documentaries — all kinds of social issues, whether you’re looking for something that’s entertainment or something seriously through-provoking, we have what you’re looking for. There’s really a lot going on all the time.”