4/25/1929 – 6/9/2010
The Cinema Arts Centre (CAC) showed its first film in 1973—A Bill of Divorcement, the 1932 movie starring Katharine Hepburn and John Barrymore. At that time, the theater was not a theater as such: It was a temporarily transformed dance studio, and its proprietors, Vic Skolnick and Charlotte Sky—transplanted Manhattanites unhappy with the Island’s paucity of film options—simply borrowed a film reel and projector from the Greenlawn library, and projected the movie onto a bed sheet hanging on the wall.
“People had to bring their own chairs,” noted Dylan Skolnick, Vic’s son and the Centre’s current co-director, in an interview with the Press in 2008.
[popup url="http://assets.longislandpress.com/photos/gallery.php?gazpart=view&gazimage=3969"]Click here to view more photos of Vic Skolnick[/popup]
The not-for-profit CAC moved into its current Huntington Village location—at 423 Park Ave.—in 1977. It now has three screens and a café. It offers an amazing array of films, not just new independent and foreign pics, but old silent movies, gay-and-lesbian-themed films, documentaries, the seven-and-a-half-hour War & Peace—and lots of worthy extras: theme events, in-person discussions with guest speakers and even filmmakers and stars (including Robert Altman, Lynn Redgrave, Isabella Rossellini, Hal Hartley, Edie Falco and hundreds of others).
Clearly, since 1973, CAC has changed immeasurably, but one thing that remained constant through the decades was the passion, devotion and love of film (and community) of its co-creator, Vic Skolnick. A gregarious, warm person of tremendous spirit, Vic was more than the proprietor of a movie theater: He was the very heart of film on Long Island. It was his tremendous enthusiasm that first brought art cinema to the Island, and his dedication that allowed it to grow.
Indeed, it is very likely any single person who has ever walked into CAC has spoken to Vic at least once—as Vic could often be found in the café, chatting about film with patrons and friends. Moreover, he was a frequent public speaker, introducing films, conducting question-and-answer seminars after films, and conversing, always conversing, with his fellow cinephiles, filled as he was with immense, boundless verve and knowledge.
“[CAC] has always been designed as not just a place to go to the movies, but a real community center: a place for people to meet, to hang out, to get out of their house,” Dylan told the Press in 2008. “Long Island can be very isolating. [This is] a place where people can come and do something together.”
That was, and remains, the vision and indelible legacy of Vic Skolnick. The Island has many supporters and lovers of the arts, but none greater than Vic. He passed away last night at the age of 81.