In a world of Netflix, Red Box, free movie Tuesdays and outrageous cinema prices, the movie-going experience that once was a staple in American life has been radically altered. Why spend upwards of twelve dollars on a movie ticket when you can just sit at home and have it delivered straight to your TV or gaming device? Or why bother spending the money when you can just wait a few months and rent it for fewer than two bucks? And while free movie Tuesdays offer a viable alternative to the money issue, it’s only applicable if you or someone you know reaps the benefits of Optimum Rewards, and then if Clearview Cinemas are actually playing a movie you’d like to see. While all of these developments are great in their own right, where should one go to reclaim a part of the past, to enjoy a movie night out with some family or friends without having to pay outrageous prices and be bombarded with what seems like hours of cell phone commercials before the film starts? And where can one go to independent, foreign or classic films and experience a theatre with a rich history without the hassle of traveling to the city? Well, if you live in Westchester County you’re in luck, because there are a few hidden gems. Here are some great local independent movie houses you might consider taking a trip to:
The Jacob Burns Film Center (www.burnsfilmcenter.org)
Located at 364 Manville Road, in Pleasantville, was first opened in 2001. The JBFC offers a state-of-the-art theatre, a 27,000 square feet media arts lab as well as residence for international filmmakers. The theatre houses three screens and is open 365 days a year and each month two to four curated series and one-time events on important film artists take place.
In addition to film screenings, the JBFC has educational programs promoting 21st Century literacy through visual and aural media. It also offers various outreach programs as well as partnerships with organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club of Mount Vernon and Northern Westchester, Carver Center, Coachman Family Center, BOCES Incarcerated Youth Program as well as many others! Tickets may be purchased online.
Pelham Picture House (www.picturehouse.org)
The historical Picture House, located at 175 Wolfs Lane in Pelham, was first opened to the public in 1921. It was adapted for the “talkies” in the late 1920s and became a source of news during World War II. The Picture House is currently undergoing renovations in order to completely restore and revamp the theatre. The renovations include: a restoration of the original theatre, new seats, carpeting, improved sight and sound, wheelchair accessible facilities as well as an expanded lobby and stream-lined concessions area. In addition to these renovations, there are also expansion plans for a two-story addition along Brookside Avenue that will house a new 100-seat theatre as well as a space dedicated to film education.
When the Picture House re-opens, it will feature commercial art, independent films and documentaries from around the world. Emerging filmmakers will be invited to share their work. Film ad media experts will participate in post-screening panels and discussions. And with the new space for film education in the works, students from grades K-12 will be invited to watch and discuss great films in an educational context. They will also get an inside look at the art, science and business of film from filmmakers and other industry professionals. You can support the Picture House and it’s restoration by sending an e-mail to email@example.com
Since the Pelham Picture House is currently closed for renovations, be sure to visit the website to find out about upcoming special events that will be held at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, as well as updates on the progress of the renovations!
Paramount Center for the Arts (www.paramountcenter.org)
Located at 1008 Brown Street in Peekskill, the Paramount Center for the Arts was first opened in 1930 as a 1500-seat movie palace by Publix Pictures, a subsidiary of Paramount Pictures. It survived through the depression and World War II. However, with the advent of shopping malls, the theatre reached its demise in 1973. In 1977, the city of Peekskill acquired the theatre and since 1982, the Paramount has been bringing cultural and educational programming to the Northern Westchester and the Putnam County area at affordable prices.
Currently, the non-profit Center operates as a year-round multidisciplinary center for the arts with live performances, arts-in-education programs, films and visual art exhibitions serving over 63,000 people annually from around the mid-Hudson Valley region. Visit the Paramount Center for the Arts to enjoy comedy, music and other live performances on stage as well as films on screen! Become a member to receive discounts, special mailings, film calendars, advance notice of upcoming programs and “members only” advance purchases. To purchase tickets, visit the website or call TICKET FORCE 1-877-840-0457 from Monday – Friday 11:00 am – 6:00 pm.
Avon Theatre (www.avontheatre.org)
Located at 272 Bedford Street in nearby Stamford, Conneticut, the Avon Theatre opened in 1939 and was converted into a two-theater cinema in 1979. The Avon Theatre was shut down in 1999, with an unforeseeable future. However, it re-opened in 2004 as a not-for-profit art house cinema.
The Avon Theatre features the best of independent, world and documentary films, foreign and Hollywood classics as well as educational programming. And on select Thursdays it’s “Cult Classics” night. Special events include special film screenings followed by post-film Q & A’s with filmmakers, directors and even actors! For tickets, call the box office at (203) 967-3660.
Talk Cinema at the Performing Arts Center (www.artscenter.org)
Film critic Harlan Jacobson’s Talk Cinema takes place at the Pepsico Theater in the Performing Arts Center located at 735 Anderson Hill Road at Purchase College in Purchase. At Talk Cinema, viewers get a chance to watch great foreign and independent films before they are released. Talk Cinema subscribers do not know in advance what film will be showing, so they get to see films the way critics do! You can meet critics, scholars and filmmakers after the screenings for discussions.
Talk Cinema takes place every other Thursday at 7:00 pm. 10% discounts are available for senior citizens, 50% discounts for full-time students (limit 2 tickets per valid SUNY Purchase ID for Purchase students, limit of 1 ticket for all other students). $5.00 student rush tickets may also be purchased by full time Purchase students starting at 12:00 pm the day of the film with a valid ID, subject to availability. Box office tickets cannot be combined. To buy tickets, visit the website, visit the box office at the Performing Arts Center, or call (914) 251-6200 Tuesday-Friday 12:00 pm – 6:00 pm.
Also, be sure to visit www.artswestchester.com for more info on these picture houses as well as many other art centers and events going on throughout the year in Westchester County!