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Working in Coney Island over the past few summers, we got used to a zillion people asking us if Coney Island was closing. It wasn’t and it’s not. In fact, Coney Island never closes (think Beach, Boardwalk, Aquarium) and is getting a brand-new Luna Park this summer.

But filmmaker JL Aronson’s documentary “Last Summer at Coney Island” is aptly titled. For the past three summers, it has felt like the last summer of our Coney Island because of Thor Equities’ eviction of Astroland and other businesses and the City’s rezoning of the C-7 amusement district. JL, known as Sonny to his friends, has distilled the essence of those turbulent times in his elegaic film. From 150 hours of footage, he has edited a 100-minute rough cut. Here’s a scene from the 2008 Mermaid Parade, featuring a replica of the Astroland Rocket and many of our mermaid and merman friends…

Says the filmmaker….

Beginning in early Spring of 2007, I set out to capture Coney Island at a pivotal moment in its 125+ year history as an amusement destination. With City Hall and private developers laying out their competing plans for Coney Island’s 21st century makeover, many of the local residents and business people felt trapped in the middle or left out in the surf. Much has happened since then, and while the area’s uncertain future brought media attention from across the world, few stuck around long enough to get the full story.

It’s true, summer weekends brought out multiple film crews seeking people to interview. Sonny was always here filming both public events and private moments. “Last Summer at Coney Island” promises to be an exceptional film. It is nearing completion and being pitched on Kickstarter, a website that “helps fund creative ideas and ambitious endeavors.” The only catch is a project must be fully funded before its time expires or no money changes hands. Total amount needed: $16,000. The film currently has 27 backers and needs 20 more with two weeks to go!

Watch the trailer featuring Community Board 13 Manager Chuck Reichenthal, historian Charles Denson, Mermaid Parade creator Dick Zigun and other Coney Island luminaries here. There’s also an engaging interview with Gerry Menditto, longtime manager of the Cyclone roller coaster here.

UPDATE June 1, 2011:

A 60-minute cut of JL Aronson’s documentary “Last Summer at Coney Island” is being shown on public television. We recommend watching it and then buying the DVD with the full 90-minute version and a host of extras, including “Since Last Summer,” in which the film-maker narrates a candid update. Read our review here:“Last Summer at Coney Island” Airs on PBS, DVD Offers Epilogue” (ATZ, May 12, 2011)

UPDATE August 10, 2010:

The film was funded and premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music premiere. Read the review by Rich Calder in the New York Post. Check out on the new trailer at http://www.lastsummeratconeyisland.com.

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Related posts on ATZ…

February 22, 2010:Coney Island’s Luna Park Launches Blog Site, Lists Job Openings

December 30, 2009: Looking Back & Forward: Astroland Shrine on New Year’s Day 2009

June 22, 2009: A Judge’s Photo Album of the 2009 Coney Island Mermaid Parade

May 21, 2009: Astroland Closed But Your Kid Can Still Ride the USS Astroland This Summer!

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