While the announcement that Millerton’s Moviehouse — the village’s longstanding cinema and cultural epicenter — will be seeking new ownership in the coming months may seem like the appropriate capstone to 2020, there is a silver lining. That unique sense of hopeful optimism is represented in the spirit of owner Carol Sadlon herself. “The Moviehouse has represented mine and my husband’s passion for film,” says Carol. “As well the community’s rich history and love for independent art and cinema.”
For over four decades, The Moviehouse has contributed significantly to creating a vibrant community in Millerton, drawing a loyal audience from New York as well as neighboring Connecticut and Massachusetts, and it started as romantically as any of the films shown in that time. “After building our weekend getaway lake house, on a beautiful summer afternoon in 1977, my husband, Robert, and I wandered into town to explore the Village of Millerton,” Carol recalls. “We stumbled on a closed, dilapidated movie theater for sale and shared a light bulb moment; we could restore the historic building and program diverse, independent, and foreign films for the community. It was born out of love, not business, as we had successful clothing stores in NYC.” On Memorial Day Weekend in 1978, the Moviehouse opened with Neil Simon’s Award-winning film The Goodbye Girl and thus began the theater’s 42-year journey toward local icon. Today, the Moviehouse is one of the largest independent cinemas in the Hudson Valley and has earned a spot in the National Register of Historic Places.
“(I have come) to realize that I am at once filled with excitement at the thought of what The Moviehouse can become with an influx of new thoughts and ideas,” says Carol. “Yet a little melancholy about accepting the fact that I am not 30 years old anymore and I simply can’t do it all by myself.” Indeed Carol’s relentless ambition is no doubt the driving force behind the Moviehouse’s impact. During their decades of work, Carol and her husband Robert started and successfully ran many other local businesses including the award-winning Simmons’ Way Village Inn (today, The Millerton Inn) that graced the cover of April 27th, 1987’s New York Magazine, an Art School, ArtsWork Forum, and eventually other movie theaters in Connecticut. Still, it’s the Moviehouse that has remained both at the heart of the surrounding community as well as the passion of Carol and her beloved husband.
During the COVID-19 State lock-downs while movie theaters across the State sat in idle anxiety, Carol once again found solace in the support from neighbors and business friends from within the community. “We have been very fortunate to share our passions with a supportive and caring community,” Carol says. “I am so grateful for all of our patrons who continue to support our online virtual cinema effort and for local partners like the Sharon Playhouse who allowed us to screen some films for their summer drive-in events. It was an incredible joy for all of us to get together.” Carol says the other vital asset of the Moviehouse’s sustainability has been the theater’s staff and their incredible fortitude. “The businesses that occupy our small towns are institutions for the community and the staff at the Moviehouse have been the lynchpin for our viability. I cannot say enough about their endurance over the past year, they are so skilled and loyal and are even willing to stay and help continue to operate the Moviehouse.”
The search and transition for new stewardship has begun, though as Carol puts it, will not happen overnight. In the meantime the folks at the Moviehouse are taking a “wait-and-see” approach before making any decisions to reopen in the near future. “There are many factors that must be taken into account, including the current COVID situation and available films,” says Carol. “The Moviehouse is the heart of the regional community and our passion. Still, the time has come to pass the baton to a new generation…a visionary who can nurture and grow the theater on the foundation we have built with a creative understanding of the future of the media arts and a new and enthusiastic generation of cinephiles.” It is clear that rather than a goodbye note, Carol’s transition has become a love letter to the Moviehouse itself and the community that has so lovingly embraced its presence for generations.