This week’s guest for Faces of Kingston is Jason Harucki of Kingston’s NCG Cinema branch. We spoke about Kingston’s local flavor and what makes it special, the joys of growing up here and also what exciting aspects NCG is bringing to keep the mall area active and fun.
Morgan Y. Evans: How long have you lived in our area?
Jason Harucki: For the most part I have lived here my whole life. I went to college up in Albany for four years. Didn’t finish because Saint Rose is awfully expensive.
Oh yeah? I did SUNY up there for one semester.
Yeah, looking back it would have been good to finish and get the liberal arts degree but I just ran out of money. I was a foster kid growing up so I was kind of on my own. Other than that and a very small stint in Middletown, I have been in Kingston from age six on. I went to Kingston High and graduated in ’96.
What’s your earliest memory of the city?
I lived with my grandmother when we moved up from Virginia when I was six. I have a lot of fond memories visiting my great uncle. He lived in the area behind McDonald’s on Albany Avenue, Harding Avenue, back there. I have a lot of memories of visiting his family and getting happy meals back when those were actually pretty cool (chuckling).
(laughing) They used to have better toys, right?
That’s funny. One thing we like to ask people is what Kingston means to them? It’s kind of vague, but what do you think makes it stand out from other places?
I wasn’t born here but solidly consider it home. All the history of Uptown Kingston with it being the first capital. Just knowing some of the people you read about you can go to places they actually were like the Senate House, is thrilling. Hamilton right now is pretty big. Knowing he was in the city and of course Washington. Adams and Jefferson. Living history anywhere you go. It’s pretty cool when you sit down and think about it. A couple of years ago I saw John Pinette before he died and the opening act was like,”We get it. You’re the first capital. We see it on the signs here like seven times.” Well, y’know, sure … but it’s pretty cool!
Stay mad about it (laughing).
It is funny because they do hammer that home on the way. Every city has their thing.
How long have you been part of NCG here?
I’ve been the NCG Kingston since the concept was thrown out there. They did interviews when they decided they were moving in and the final talk in January and I have been with them ever since. It came at a really great time. A down point in my life. I have been in the building since it looked like a bomb went off. I have pictures from a year ago today that would amaze you.
They did a terrific job with this place.
It’s been a great thing for the mall and me personally and Kingston too. We are about to launch a rewards program in a few weeks where when you spend $50 you get $5 back towards anything in the theater.
I think I came here first for Avengers: Endgame and was just really impressed by how much more comfortable it was.
We learned a lot from Avengers. The biggest movie of all time and second week we were open! It punched us right in the face but we learned so much from it.
I had a great time. I think I have been to more movies here than I have in years since it opened. Anything coming up you are excited about?
I do appreciate that. I see a lot of familiar faces every week with each big movie and we are grateful for every one of them. For the Marvel-heads there is Black Widow coming out. Wonder Woman in June looks amazing. Even the non-MCU movies like Morbius and Venom look OK. Godzilla/Kong in November. If it is as good as King of the Monsters I will give it a shot.
I liked Skull Island. I think the Legendary Monster movies are pretty rad.
Yeah. From Disney there is Mulan. A lot of stuff coming out. Should be a great summer.
What do you do in Kingston in your down time? You seem like a busy guy.
The little downtime I have I sing with the Mendelssohn Club of Kingston. I have been doing that on and off since I was fourteen.
I sing tenor. I do try to go to dinner when I have someone to go with. Downtown by the waterfront there are great ones hopefully everybody supports. Other than that I am trying to recharge the batteries, lose a few pounds and enjoy my 40s a little bit.
What do you think otherwise about how to keep the mall area alive?
Even now with the mall being in a lull, there are plenty of things that could go right. I think the future lies with local business. The anchor stores don’t exist much anymore, your JC Penneys and K-Marts. It is gonna be like the parkour place and local gyms and the karate place. The HealthQuest conglomerate is a different thing from the mall now, but local spaces that want a bigger space could still bring a future to the mall. I am looking forward to 2020 in that it is our first year of being open in April. That opening weekend we aren’t going to hit Avengers numbers, but …
You aren’t the only ones (laughing).
Right, that goes for every theater in the country. But I am looking forward to meeting more new people. I still meet people who have never been here before. I’m looking forward to the business growing and hopefully we can be part of many NCG’s coming to the North East. We offer free refills on all our popcorn and soda sizes!
I didn’t know that?! (befuddled look)
(grinning) It says it right there.
(laughing) That’s my fault for always arriving late to the movies and running right in. I must have walked by that a half dozen times. That’s not on you guys.