Lights Go Dim on Westhampton Movie Theater

Southampton movie theater
Hampton Arts, a twin-screen movie theater in Westhampton Beach, has been closed since 2020.
Taylor K. Vecsey
Hampton Arts, a twin-screen movie theater in Westhampton Beach, appears to be permanently closed. K. Vecsey

The Hampton Arts Cinema, one of the last independent movie theaters on Long Island, may not reopen whenever it is movie theaters are allowed to show films to an audience again.

The building appears to have been cleaned out, and the old-fashioned marquees simply reads, “Closed.” Rumor around the village is that the property is for sale, but it has not yet been listed.

Of course, movie theaters throughout the state remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They are one of the last businesses to remain closed under the state’s reopening plan, and Governor Andrew Cuomo has given no indication as to when he may allow audiences returning to watch flicks on the big screen.

Peter Vivian, the last known theater owner, could not be reached for comment.

“Residents and visitors love our quaint Hampton Arts Cinema as it has served as an informal place to meet friends and share a movie as a community,” said Westhampton Beach Mayor Maria Moore. “But like all movie theaters, it has been a business under great strain since the advent of streaming movie services. Our little cinema holds fond memories for many in our Village, so if the report of its closing is true, it will be greatly missed.”

A small movie theater that dates back to the 1920s, it usually closes during the winter months, but would have normally reopened for the spring and summer season. The twin-screen theater is located at the head of Brook Road on the traffic circle diagonally across from the Westhampton Police Department and Village Hall.

In 2014, an online fundraiser was afoot to raise money for the Hampton Arts Cinema, which was in need of a state-of-the-art digital projection and sound system. It appears that only $30,000 of the $125,000 sought was raised.

The approximately 6,900-square-foot building is owned by Westhampton Beach LLC with a mailing address in Great Neck, according to the tax rolls. Its owner, Harvey L. Kaylie, an innovator in the radio-frequency/microwave industry, founder of Mini-Circuits and a philanthropist, died in 2018.

Kaylie acquired the property in 2003 for $575,000, records show. According to an article in the New York Times, he had plans to use it in concert with the Hampton Synagogue, just up the block. Jewish film festivals were held there, both for adults and children, while it remained a commercial theater, closed in the winter months.

“Quaint and old-fashioned would be the best way to describe our little hometown theater,” the theater’s Facebook page states. It first opened as the Hampton Star Theatre in 1927. A fire damaged it in 1932, it reopened in 1947 as a summer theater, and later started showing movies. Over the years, it was also home to theatrical groups and performances.

With reporting by David Taylor

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