The Picture House Expands to Bronxville

The Picture House in Pelham, NY (photo credit: Len Elmer)

by Mary Alice Franklin, ArtsNews Editor

The Picture House Regional Film Center (TPH) was formed in 2003 when it saved a 1920s theater in Pelham from being demolished. Now the organization will save another ‘20s-era theater, this time in Bronxville.  The film center recently announced its plans to expand programming to a Kraft Avenue theater that is owned by, and was previously operated by, Bow Tie Cinemas. According to President and Executive Director Laura deBuys, the board has been looking for ways to expand since the organization’s inception: “The idea was always to have another large capacity theater…In 2019, we even did exploration for a capital campaign for expansion.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, those plans were put on pause – until Bow Tie announced that it would not be reopening its Bronxville location. It was then that the pieces fell into place for The Picture House.

In March of 2021, Bronxville Mayor Mary Marvin put out a letter to the community in hopes that someone would take over the facility’s operations.

DeBuys says that by June, her team was convinced that it was the perfect fit: “It was really a way for us to do the expansion that we always wanted and needed to do, but without a huge capital investment. It’s completely aligned with our mission as a regional film center and is going to help us extend our reach and impact.”

The overall programming in Bronxville will be similar to Pelham’s, “We’re just bigger and better now, with two locations.” The expansion will allow TPH three additional screens on which to present films. DeBuys noted that they will be up and running by February 11.  Beyond that, they will make improvements depending upon the needs of the community and how much money they raise.

This is viable, she says. While the margins on for-profit movie theaters are slim, deBuys explains that the non-profit community-based, mission-driven model has seen theaters bounce back or open anew, even since COVID. “It just became so obvious during the pandemic] that this kind of community experience – seeing a film together, talking about ideas – is just essential.”

She adds: “This is an exceptional time for storytelling, and films are brilliant at telling stories. I think everybody recognized during the pandemic that stories help us get away, explore things, express things… They’re critical.”

Along with its expanded screenings, The Picture House plans to increase its educational offerings with the new location, “first thing,” though a launch date hasn’t yet been determined.

Bronxville Mayor Mary Marvin said: “The Picture House brings communities together around film and cultural discourse,” and noted that the organization’s presence ”will not only strengthen [Bronxville’s] community culturally, it will also help to attract more people to eat, shop and visit [its] downtown.”

The timing of this new development comes at the tail end of the centennial celebration of the Center’s iconic Pelham theater. Recent centennial initiatives include a new ambassador program to further widen the organization’s impact. A gala event on March 11 will honor ArtsWestchester CEO Janet Langsam and New York State Senator Charles Schumer.

“[Our honorees] have both done so much to help us survive and grow. Janet Langsam has really mentored The Picture House and has made huge gains for the arts in Westchester County – and without Senator Schumer’s Save Our Stages legislation, we would not be here to celebrate our moving into our second century.”

The Pelham building has deep roots in the community. DeBuys says she gets emails from people telling her about their memories: “There are just decades of experiences that these buildings hold on to. That’s really what everything we do is about.”

Her hope is that the buildings, now plural, will continue to nurture new memories for years to come. “[Despite the pandemic], we know that people will continue to want to get together. And we’ll provide the content.”

A version of this article first appeared in the February 2022 issue of ArtsNews, ArtsWestchester’s monthly publication. ArtsNews is distributed throughout Westchester County. A digital copy is also available at

About Mary Alice Franklin

Mary Alice Franklin is ArtsWestchester’s Communications Manager and Editor of ArtsNews. She has a Bachelors in English and Masters in Publishing, and has been published in Paste Magazine, HuffPost, Art Zealous, Art Times, and more.

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