Celebrating 20 Years of the Furman Film Series

Squire Alan King tributeIn 2015, we are proud to mark 20 years of the Furman Film Series. In 1995, when Regina Gil first founded the Gold Coast Arts Center (then called the Great Neck Arts Center), our mission was to promote and support the arts. The art of Film has always held a prominent place alongside Art, Music, Dance and Theater.

To this end, then Mayor of Great Neck Plaza Bob Rosegarten, declared April 1994 “Arts Center Month.” Before we even had our own permanent home, we were already producing a series of special events and unique art experiences throughout Great Neck to introduce the community to what we were doing.

Famous Kings Point resident, comic actor Alan King, offered to help. He came to speak at a screening of his 1980 film Just Tell Me What You Want, directed by Sidney Lumet and co-starring Ali McGraw and Myrna Loy. The challenge, however, was to track down the one extant copy of the 35mm reel. The film was found and it played to a full house of Alan King fans and film lovers. During an emotional conversation with Mr. King following the screening, he shared anecdotes from the making of the film and others in his career. A telegram from Sidney Lumet congratulating him on the evening surprised him and was read to the audience. And Mr. King recounted the eulogy he had recently given at Myrna Loy’s funeral. After a strawberries and champagne reception, the audience left feeling illuminated and privileged to have been a part of this special night.

That evening led to the formula for the Great Neck Cinematheque (which would become the Furman Film Series). Twenty years later, we continue to offer a special presentation of a new film followed by a conversation with an actor, filmmaker, or other special guest. It is  proven formula for audience satisfaction.

From the outset, we were fortunate enough to bring a variety of one-of-a-kind experiences to our audiences. The Cinematheque’s very first screening in May 1995 was The Perez Family starring Alfred Molina, Anjelica Huston and Marisa Tomei, followed by a conversation with director Mira Nair who phoned in from the red carpet of the movie’s premiere in Miami (no easy feat in pre-smart phone days!). 500 people packed North Shore Towers’ theater for this unique experience.

Over the years, we’ve continued to bring in wonderful and notable films, including Life is Beautiful, La Vie En Rose, The King’s Speech, and The Artist. We’ve welcomed distinguished guests from the industry including Gabriel Byrne, Joan Allen, and Eli Wallach. And eventually we watched this series grow into the first Gold Coast International Film Festival in 2011. It has been a highly anticipated event every year since, and has helped expand our mission of bringing excellence in the world of film to our region.

In the coming months, we’ll be taking a look back at our 20 year history, and the many memorable screenings we’ve held over the years. Whether you’ve been with us from the beginning or are new to the Gold Coast International Film Festival, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for some throwback posts to films you may love, some you may have forgotten about, or others that are worth the time to track down and watch now!