Free Winter Film Series returning to Greenport next month

Last season’s lineup included “E.T.” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” and this year’s collection of films is just as beloved. (Credit: Manhattan Film Institute)

Manhattan Film Institute’s free Winter Film Series is returning to Greenport’s Village Cinema next month for a new lineup of 42 crowd-pleasing movies.

The first six films — including “Home Alone,” “Elf” and “Die Hard” — will once again be played over the holiday break from Dec. 28-30 and have a Christmas theme. (Yes, Northforker agrees with MFI that Die Hard is a holiday classic!) The series will then pick up again on Saturdays between Jan. 11 and May 9.

While the format remains mostly the same in this second season — a family film at 6:30 p.m. and a more mature selection at 7 p.m. — there are a few new wrinkles. Each of the 7 p.m. selections will be paired with a short film produced at MFI, an annual film academy where emerging actors and directors collaborate to produce shorts shot over the course of one week on the North Fork.

“Each of the shorts was inspired by or has some sort of synergy with the feature that night,” said MFI founder Tony Spiridakis, himself an accomplished actor and filmmaker.

One example he gave was a short film a student made following the 2018 false missile alert in Hawaii. Believing he has only seven minutes to live, the protagonist finally works up to courage to kiss the girl of his dreams, only to learn it was a false alarm. That comedy will be paired with Stanley Kubrick’s classic satire “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” on May 9.

SEE THE COMPLETE SERIES LINEUP

Also new this year will be post-film discussions both about the movies and in some cases the social issues they depict, like with Spike Lee’s timeless study of racism “Do the Right Thing” on March 7 and Jonathan Demme’s Oscar-winning LGBT/AIDS discrimination film “Philadelphia” on Feb. 15.

Mr. Spiridakis said a personal favorite selection of his is the April 4 screening of “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” which will be paired with an MFI short about autism that stars his son, who has autism spectrum disorder.

“We were really focused on having diversity [this year],” Mr. Spiridakis said. “Whether it’s racial or LGBTQ or something for [people with] neurotypical [disorders] we wanted something for everyone.”

There are local connections to at least two of the family-friendly selections as well. “Ice Age” (Feb. 8.)  director Chris Wedge lives in Orient and Greenport’s Joe Pantoliano appeared in “The Goonies” (Feb. 15). The screenings are a nod to the support both men have showed the film series and MFI.

Folks heading out to the North Fork for its wineries and restaurants might want to stick around to watch Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott’s “Big Night” on Jan. 11 or Alexander Payne’s “Sideways” on Jan. 18.

Also new to the series this year will be music from local artists before the screenings, with the performers getting a plug on the screen, so patrons can become familiar with the musical talent on the North Fork.

MFI is also looking to continue to partner with area businesses this year and so they’re seeking sponsorships that include the opportunity to advertise on the big screen. They’ll also offer a gift card program with local businesses as a way to encourage movie-goers to visit a restaurant or bar after a screening. Mr. Spiridakis hopes the business partnerships extend beyond Greenport and across the entire North Fork this year.

The Winter Film Series launched in December 2018 after Mr. Spiridakis and his partner Lisa Gillooly paid to have the broken boiler system in the theater repaired, making it possible for films to be screened in the cold winter months. Each week the couple and other supporters can be seen changing the lettering outside, serving refreshments and cleaning up afterward. For them, it’s a labor of love.

And the theater itself is a passion project of owner Josh Sapan, the president and CEO of AMC networks and a resident of Shelter Island. Mr. Spiridakis said Mr. Sapan, like many other local residents, was thrilled to hear the series was returning this year.

“We were full or mostly full every week last year,” he said. “The people spoke and there’s no way they would allow us to not do it again.”