The Vic Buffer

A friend of mine, Pat, introduced me to two wonderful institutions after we graduated college. One was the Indian restaurant Romna, on East Sixth Street (which we frequented for years) and the other was Huntington’s New Community Cinema, housed in an old elementary school in Huntington, on the other side of the Nassau-Suffolk border. The first film I saw there was Dance with a Stranger.


Supporting cinema with t-shirts.

I eventually joined as a member for a while, and went regularly through 1989, when I moved to Manhattan. They showed every major foreign film and independent release possible. One Sunday, Mark and I went to see Marcel Pagnol’s “Fanny Trilogy” for an entire day. That’s how we learned the term, “Escartefigerie.” Every month, maybe more, they had silent films accompanied by a live pianist.

The cinema was actually only in part of the building. It shared space with a YMCA. The theatre was actually the school auditorium. The seats were uncomfortable at times. But they had wonderful snacks–blondies and brownies, herbal tea and hot chocolate, and after a while, you became friendly with the volunteers who staffed the door and the concessions, and the projectionist.

I remember once scrambling to leave work on time so I could get home to Woodhaven via subway and jump into my car and cross Nassau County and get on Route 110 so I could see a silent movie on time. This was the age of VCRs, but honestly, until DVDs came along, I didn’t really enjoy watching things on VHS. Plus, cinemas are all about a larger-than-your-life screen and a dreamlike experience as the lights go down and you get absorbed by and absorb what’s on the screen.

This was before smartphones. All you really had to worry about was a geriatric viewer in the audience saying, “What’s going on!? I DON’T UNDERSTAND” to his wife.

I saw films there I have not seen since on TV or are not available on DVD, like Pervola: Tracks in the Snow. I often wondered just how many films they had to watch just to sift through everything to get us the good stuff.

I was out of college but had some friends who were still at Hofstra, so sometimes it was a mad dash to Hofstra to collect them, then get to Huntington. We soon learned that it was usually okay to be 10 to 20 minutes late, because of the “Vic Buffer.”

One of the cinema’s founders, Vic Skolnick, usually introduced the films, and would talk for at least 10 minutes, if not more. My friend Abdul would say, “Don’t worry, there’s a Vic Buffer. He had been a history professor, so those buffers were good lessons on a variety of subjects.

And there was usually a meal before but usually after the movies.

Buying this t-shirt helped support independent cinema on Long Island. Skolnick and his partner of 60 years, Charlotte Sky, started their effort by showing movies on a library projector on a bedsheet up in a friend’s dance studio somewhere about 40 year ago.

They eventually were able to raise money to add a second screening area in the area behind the screen–the auditorium’s backstage area, and it became the Cinema Arts Centre.

It was sad to hear that Vic died this summer at the age of 81. Read more about him.

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