Larchmont residents populated the hugely successful event, which raised $200,000 for the capital campaign, thereby allowing the organization to begin unprecedented renovations to the historic theater.
The Picture House announced on December 22 that, thanks to the success of its December 4th fundraiser at the Mamaroneck Beach & Yacht Club, the organization has raised enough money to begin the proposed major renovations to the 1921 movie theater, opening a new chapter in the 88-year-old history of the theater.
The 1921 Pelham Picture House is the focus of a capital campaign to transform the theater into a state-of-the-art film and education center. This will be accomplished through two construction projects: renovations to the existing theater, slated to start in March 2010, and the addition of a new 98-seat theater and education center when the remainder of capital funds are raised. In September 2009, the Picture House—the nonprofit organization that owns the theater—faced a $500,000 fundraising gap to close before it could begin the unprecedented renovations, which will include new theater interiors, expanded lobby and concession areas, and fully accessible facilities. By the day of the fundraiser, that gap had shrunk in half to $250,000 through a state government grant, a significant contribution from a Picture House Board member, and many generous donations from supportive members of the community.
The December 4th fundraiser honored the theater’s rich history and celebrated its recent transformations, including the creation of two film series and a shift toward more mission-oriented programming. But the real center of the evening was the imminent interior renovation plan, which, while preserving the theater’s historical integrity, will also serve to update the building and usher the Picture House into the 21st century. The fundraiser served in part to inform past and present Picture House supporters of the exciting new changes and to reach out to these committed citizens to help close the remaining fundraising gap.
“Larchmont was integral to the fundraiser’s success,” said event co-chair and Picture House Board member Susan Myers. “We were proud to see so many of our friends and neighbors turn out to support the Picture House and all of our efforts. The Picture House is a wonderful cultural institution in our community, and it’s just next door! Once the renovations are complete, the residents of Larchmont will have access to a beautiful new space that will provide a viewing experience unique to our region.”
Amidst cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, a live auction, and a roving magician, the Picture House emphasized the urgency of its fundraising efforts. Event co-chairs and Board members Susan Myers of Larchmont and Dale Hisiger of Armonk spoke about the strong regional support for the Picture House—the fundraiser guests hailed from twenty different Westchester communities as well as New York City and Connecticut. Executive Director Jennifer Christman reminded those in attendance that a restored, renovated, and expanded Picture House will allow the organization to fulfill its mission of becoming a state-of-the-art film and education center. Ray Beeler, co-chair of the Building Committee, energized listeners by sharing the details of the renovations. All of this led up to Board vice chair John Calvelli’s impassioned appeal for guests to help turn the Picture House dream into a reality.
Board member Eric Salmeron and his wife, Mildred Pinott, issued a challenge to the crowd by offering to match $100,000 in capital donations. The surprise announcement inspired a flurry of donations, resulting in a total of $200,000 in capital funds raised in one evening. With only $50,000 left to raise, the Picture House is confident that the proposed renovations will begin on schedule.
Executive Director Jennifer Christman said, “This year, we have exceeded all of our expectations on all counts! We have transformed our programming with our film choices, series, and special screenings. We piloted two education programs and received glowing feedback across the board. More programs are already in the works to meet a growing demand for film education. Our fundraiser was an incredible event, generating tremendous momentum and garnering $200,000 for the capital campaign. This recent success means that we have reached a milestone in our campaign: we have now raised enough to renovate the 1921 theater. We hope this momentum will keep building as we continue to raise funds for the broader expansion of the Picture House.”
Sarah Gold is a development associate with the Picture House, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to restoring, renovating, and transforming the historic 1921 Pelham Picture House into a state-of-the-art independent film and education center. The organization has a two-part mission: to screen great films and to educate people from diverse backgrounds about the art, technology, and business of film. All photos copyright Jesse Hernandez Photography