Independent movie houses set to host live screenings

After more than a year delivering an eclectic array of films via livestream, two of the area’s independent movie houses are set to welcome audiences this spring. The Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville and the Bedford Playhouse are planning to open their doors under guidelines for movie theaters that presently permit 25 percent capacity up to 50 patrons but capacity could be expanded later this spring or summer.

While virtual screenings are likely to become a permanent part of programming, they can’t replace the big-screen experience, said Margo Amgott, the Burns Center’s interim executive director.

Jacob Burns Theater (Photo: Russell Peborde)

“There’s just nothing like watching a film as a community, together with people you know and people you don’t,” she said. “It’s a very exciting moment, and people have really missed that. And we’ve missed being there and providing it ourselves.”

The Burns Center was originally planning to open April 30 but postponed the date to Wednesday, May 12. Film titles had not been announced as of press time.

Three theaters will each offer two screenings a day, five days a week, for the first few weeks before resuming a seven-day schedule.

“Nomadland” opens April 30 at The Jacob Burns Film Center.

The nonprofit theater’s obligation to the community guided the decision to open despite the audience limits, Amgott said.

“It would certainly be better for our bottom line if we could have more guests in the theater, but we feel a real commitment to our community to open as soon as we can safely,” she said. “For us it’s not an economic question, it’s about serving the community, which has been so wonderfully supportive of us.”

The Burns Center didn’t exactly go dark during its closure. Starting last winter, the marquee was relamped and a lighting installation was added to cast a glow onto the village’s downtown. “It’s our contribution to try to bring light to a dark time,” she said.

Bedford Playhouse (Photo by Bedford Playhousse)

The Bedford Playhouse has announced it will reopen May 28, in time for Memorial Day weekend, and what it called “a highly anticipated season of summer blockbusters.” Initial plans are for the theater to be in operation on weekends, according to Courtney Davis Walker, director of marketing and communications.

A schedule had not been set as of press time while the theater awaits the availability of first-run films. Moviegoers are advised to check the website in the coming weeks.

“We are incredibly grateful for the support our community has shown over the last very difficult year and we are looking forward to welcoming guests back home to the Playhouse,” Executive Director Michael Hoagland stated in a press release.

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