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movie theater

By Rita J. Egan

PJ Cinemas patrons catching a screening of The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, Trolls Band Together, Wish, The Holdovers, Napoleon, or The Marvels for the Thanksgiving weekend are in for a pleasant surprise. Just in time for the holiday movie season, the decades-long Port Jefferson Station staple has been made over for the comfort of its customers.

After two months of remodeling and temporarily closing its doors to the public, owner Phil Solomon said he opened the PJ Cinemas doors once again in October. In addition to its seven auditoriums — two downstairs and five upstairs —  being painted and getting new carpeting and aisle lights, the movie theater now has new seats that Solomon described as “delicious.”

Initially, the theater had 1,050 seats that the owner called “wonderful seats back in 1994.” Now, the venue has approximately 650 chairs in total, and while that means less regarding occupancy, the new seats have other benefits.

“By doing that, we have put in fewer but larger and more comfortable seats that rock,” he said. “There’s space in such a way that when somebody at the end of the row wants to get out, the people in the row do not have to stand up. You can just walk right by them. The seats are comfortable and supportive.”

Two months may be a long time for a business to close its doors, but Solomon has dealt with closings before as he was among the business owners who survived the mandatory COVID-19 shutdowns in New York. The period marked another time for change for the theater as the owner had new air filters and up-to-date HVAC ductwork units installed to purify the air before theaters were able to reopen in October 2020. 

Despite fewer locally privately-owned movie theaters in the area and many of those businesses struggling, Solomon said it’s important to continue upgrading PJ Cinemas and making the venue more comfortable.

“We’re hoping to keep the industry alive,” he said.

Solomon, who has owned the theater since 1982, is also optimistic about the future now that the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA actor union strikes are over.

The theater owner said he sees the grandchildren of original customers coming to his theater now, and he owes his success to keeping ticket prices low. The movie theater charges $10 for adults and $7.50 for senior citizens and children. Screenings before 6 p.m. are $7.50 for all customers.

“What we do is we keep it so that movies are still accessible to the ordinary movie going public,” he said. “So, you don’t need a large sum of money for a family or a couple to go to the movies and get some popcorn.”

PJ Cinemas is located in the Port Plaza shopping center at 1068 Route 112, Port Jefferson Station. For more information, please call 631-928-FILM or visit www.mypjcinemas.com.

A scene from 'Oppenheimer'

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

My wife and I are wildly out of practice at an activity we used to do on dates.

Hey, I’m talking about going to movies. What did you think I meant? Never mind.

Anyway, after three and a half years, we finally ventured out to see a movie. No streaming at home, not taking a long walk through the neighborhood to see all the usual other walkers, and no hanging out in the backyard to look up at stars whose light was sent to us years ago.

I don’t think the light we can see was sent to us when dinosaurs were roaming the Earth.

We had purchased tickets online, with the customary and annoying convenience fee surcharge for something that couldn’t possibly be easier for the movie theater, and were excited to see a movie on the big screen.

Previews have always appealed to us, as has the satisfaction of seeing the entire movie from the start. When both of us were young, we found ourselves in movie theaters after the film began.

We’d sit in our seats and wait for the next showing, when we’d catch up to the point when we entered and, often with our respective families, head to the exits to piece together the narrative.

On a recent Sunday night, we drove through a packed parking lot. Clearly, the Barbenheimer phenomenon – the combination of hits “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” – has brought the crowds back to the theaters that somehow survived the pandemic.

With almost no line, we breezed through the entrance and got on the short line for popcorn. Ah, movie popcorn. Yes, it’s much more expensive than it needs to be, and yet, we splurged for it many times as we prepared to suspend disbelief and enter the altered and captivating reality of a movie.

The concession didn’t sell bottled water, which we could fill with any beverage of our choice. We reluctantly agreed to buy the expensive cup and added ice cold water to our movie-time meal.

The days of waiting in line for the free-for-all of finding the best middle seats are long gone. We walked up to our wide, comfortable seats. When we didn’t immediately find the recliner button, the woman to my wife’s right showed us where it was.

Back in the early days of our children’s lives, when we were incredibly sleep deprived, those seats would have been a welcome opportunity for a solid nap.

Not this time. We were locked in and ready for the film. As is our wont, we quickly finished the first bucket of popcorn before the previews. I raced back for a refill and returned just in time for the start of several coming attractions.

Most of those previews looked somewhere between awful and horrific. If those were the best scenes from coming films, it may be a while before we feel the urge to return to the world of overpriced popcorn and comfortable chairs.

So, after all this time, are you wondering what we saw?

Well, we got sucked into the Barbenheimer vortex, opting for the World War II film instead of the late 50’s iconic toy.

With gripping subject matter and extraordinary acting from a cast ready to personify critically important figures from a turbulent time in 20th century history, the movie was compelling.

I can see why it received rave reviews. As a film watcher – okay, well, as a former passionate devotee of the silver screen – I wasn’t completely moved by the broad story telling.

As a science writer, which is the other hat I wear with privilege regularly for these papers, I was hoping there had been a greater description about the discoveries Oppenheimer and his collaborators had to make to complete the Manhattan Project.

At one point during the movie, I realized that we were watching the film on the 78th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. The eery overlap brought home the complicated legacy of a talented scientist and effective leader.

One of the newly renovated theaters at the Cinema Arts Centre. Photo by Nate Close

After a long closure, and full renovation, Huntington’s Cinema Art Centre has reopened for in-person screenings and events

After more than two years, the Cinema Arts Centre (CAC), 423 Park Ave., Huntington has reopened with a newly renovated space. Independent film screenings and special programming are back at the cinema, with great events planned for this spring and summer, and more on the way.

Having first closed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CAC decided to use the opportunity to embark upon a large scale renovation of its lobby and three theaters. The work on the theater includes brand new seats, carpeting, ceilings, an updated ventilation system, as well as new paint and carpeting in the lobby and new seats and tables in the café, which are set to arrive any day. The floors in the theaters have also been re-profiled to create better sight lines, the bathrooms have been refurbished, and additional handicap seating has been added to the theaters.

New lobby carpeting at the Cinema Arts Centre. Photo by Nate Close

During its closure the Cinema Arts Centre stayed busy presenting pop-up and drive-in screenings along with a diverse range of virtual programming, some of which will continue in some capacity into the future.

The Cinema is now open for in-person programming, and tickets are on sale for a number of films and special events this year. One series that particularly excites that staff is the Maritime Film Festival.

A celebration of Long Island’s coastal culture, the multi-day Maritime Film Festival, will explore topics such as Long Island’s bay houses, the first all-female crew of sailors to circumnavigate the globe, and the Bungalows of Rockaway. The festival will feature a number of special guests including filmmakers, subjects of the films, and experts on Long Island history. You can purchase tickets or find more information about these and other events at www.cinemaartscentre.org

“It has been a long road to get us to this point,” said Nate Close, director of communications at the CAC. “We experienced a few delays along the way but we are thrilled to be finally reopening as an even better version of the Cinema Arts Centre. With our comfortable new seats and more modern theater design, we are excited to once again provide a space where people in our community can come together. We want to sincerely thank our members, donors, and everyone in our amazing Huntington and Long Island communities who made this possible.”