When Cinema Arts Centre opened for business in Huntington in 1973, filmgoers paid one dollar to watch an independent movie from a borrowed 16mm film projector in borrowed dance studio space. The cost of the tickets has changed a bit, as has the space, but what made Cinema Arts Centre remain the same at the thriving theater?
“It’s a place to show foreign films, indie films and all sorts of films you don’t see in main stream cinema,” Director of Publicity and Promotions Raj Tawney said.
Charlotte Sky, who founded Cinema Arts Centre originally known as New Community Cinema with her husband Vic Skolnick, still handpicks the films the theater shows. Vic passed away several years ago but Sky has some help with the selections from their son and Pulse contributor Dylan Skolnick (Co-Director) and Rachel Hart (Associate Director).
Early access to flicks, watching them and selecting your favorites to show others sounds like nice work if you can get it, but it’s an incredible task. At the Toronto Film Festival this past September, the three watched five films a day in order to select the ones to show at Cinema Arts Centre.
“It’s movies that have substance, that have value, that have meaning,” Tawney said. “Char is very passionate and opinionated about a lot of issues in the world and her selections as do Skolnick’s and Hart’s reflect that.”
Four to five movies play each day in the cinema’s three theaters. Recently there was the laugh out loud romantic comedy Meet the Patels directed by Greeta Patel and Ravi Patel and Freeheld staring Julianne Moore, Ellen Page, Steve Carell and Micheal Shannon about a terminally ill New Jersey police officer Laurel Hester, whose 2005 legal battle to pass on her pension benefits to her domestic partner became a flashpoint for LGBT activism. The flicks are only one part of Cinema Arts Centre. The venue has more than 20 special events each month, from a trivia night to director question and answer sessions to Home Movie Day in which people could come with their old VHS tapes and play them. PJs optional.
“It’s so much bigger than just a cinema,” Tawney said.
The ability to know a film is special and to spark discussions has made Cinema Arts Centre thrive as not simply an art house but a community gathering place where you’ll often find people stopping by to grab food on their lunch break or enjoy the garden on warmer days.
Go on and enjoy Cinema Arts Centre next time you’re in Huntington. There’s never a reason to feel guilty about ducking inside a darkened room with some popcorn.