The Arts

Nonprofit nears $1M goal to save the Greenport Theater, hosting open house April 15

If all goes according to Tony Spiridakis’ plan, the historic Greenport Theater will not simply remain a movie theater, but rather grow into something more.

When the historic movie house at 211 Front St. was listed for sale at $5.5 million back in January, Mr. Spiridakis, a filmmaker and lifelong patron of the theater, sprang into action.

He formed an agreement with theater owner Josh Sapan, who recently stepped down as CEO at AMC Networks. If Mr. Spiridakis and a band of volunteers could weigh their community member’s desire to keep the theater a downtown beacon of the arts and entertainment — and get their pledges to donate a total of $1 million as reserve funds — Mr. Sapan will give the theater to their newly formed nonprofit, the North Fork Arts Center at the Greenport Theater.

As of Tuesday, Mr. Spiridakis and the volunteer team have raised $860,000.

“It’s just mind-boggling,” the Greenport resident said. “It makes me feel so good that so many wonderful people have turned out.”

On Saturday, April 15, the NFAC will host Volunteer Day, a meet-and-greet open house with an opportunity to tour the space and volunteer for the nonprofit. The event will provide a sneak peak of the plans for the new cultural arts center including renderings of the space, educational programing for children and special events such as lectures and Q-and-A sessions following film screenings.

“We have to stop thinking of it as just a movie theater,” Mr. Spiridakis said. “This is going to become an arts center.”

The original Greenport Theater dates back to 1915 but was destroyed by the Great New England Hurricane in 1938. It was rebuilt the following year by Prudential Theaters and designed by John Eberson, an architect renowned for his movie palace designs.

The 84-year-old structure grew from a single-screen movie house to a four-theater multiplex with enough seats for 632 cinephiles.

Mr. Sapan purchased the theater in 2004 as a passion project and restored its art-deco glory, installing a 23-foot neon sign along the façade, building a new ticket booth, updating the seats, adding a cafe and switching to digital projectors. Although he has retired from AMC and is ready to hand off the theater, he is not leaving the arts behind him. He is turning his attention to creative endeavors such as supporting the “Marvels of Media” exhibition and awards, which recently opened at the Museum of the Moving Image to celebrate moviemakers who are on the autism spectrum.

He would like to see the theater remain a community hub for the arts and entertainment, and said this is a chance for it to reach its full potential.

“When I purchased it 19 years ago it was for-profit obviously, but it was hoped as a place for film, a place for photography, a place for art, a place for the community,” he said. “I think that hope was only partially realized, and now there’s an opportunity to have it fully realized with the good work that Tony is leading.”

Along with his partner Lisa Gillooly, Mr. Spiridakis approached Mr. Sapan in 2019 to kick off a winter film series. Handing the theater to a passionate collaborator was a no-brainer for Mr. Sapan.

“He’s got the heart and the soul and the smarts to do it,” he said.

If and when the North Fork Arts Center reaches their $1 million goal, Mr. Spiridakis plans to bring a program not dissimilar to the one he and Ms. Gillooly formed 12 years ago when they founded the Manhattan Film Institute.

The current plan is to run such programs year-round and debut first-run films in the summer season.

“We want to come up with really innovative ways of bringing all the high school aspiring artists — whether it be music, theater, film, poetry, art — we will try to find ways to let this building become their creative firehouse,” he said. “We want to create alliances with the musicians we have on the North Fork. We want to make sure that we have the fine artists represented.”

For more information or to make a pledge, visit