Picture This: Reinventing the Single-Screen Cinema in Westchester

GFI chats with Global Lens partner The Picture House about history, change, and making the switch from commercial theater to arthouse cinematheque

A single screen, many stories

Last week we posted about the unfortunate closure of the Red Vic Movie House, one of San Francisco’s most unique and celebrated arthouse theaters for the past 31 years. As an antidote to that sad event, today we bring you a profile of The Picture House, Westchester County’s gorgeous single-screen theater that specializes in showing the best in independent, international and classical cinema.

A new screening-partner of ours, The Picture House hosted Global Lens 2011 last month, which of course included A USEFUL LIFE, Federico Veiroj’s bittersweet homage to cinephile culture. But unlike the film’s Cinemateca Uruguay, which is forced to close after the archive fails to make financial ends meet (and as other theaters across the United States are actively moving away from arthouse fare in favor of the latest blockbusters), the Picture House recently made the bold decision to a switch from a first-run commericial theater to an arthouse cinematheque. This past week we caught up with Jennifer Christman, Executive Director of The Picture House, to discuss this impressive move and the future of their institution.

Can you give our readers a brief overview of The Picture House, its history

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Closing Thoughts: Independent Theaters Take a Final Curtain Call

The Red Vic in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury neighborhood (Photo courtesy of the Bay Citizen)

Art imitates life as San Francisco pays homage to an arthouse icon and A USEFUL LIFE

On Monday, July 25th, San Francisco’s iconic and eclectic Red Vic Movie House will roll its reels for the last time. After 31 years filled with unconventional programming, squeaky bench seating, and a spice rack filled with popcorn accompaniments, the theater’s first film, “Harold and Maude,” will become it’s last. It’s a sad day for film lovers in San Francisco.

Rumors of closure had been swirling since last year, but financial troubles and dwindling attendance numbers finally conquered the beloved movie house. Of course, just because it’s been a slow goodbye doesn’t make it any easier. In an interview with the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Red Vic collective member Claudia Lehan called the process “’kind of like doing a bit of grief counseling. People who you tell are really sad about it. I think for us we’re sad but we’re kind of at the acceptance stage…. It’s just a different world.’”

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