After 85 years of buttered-popcorn-filled joy and blockbuster escapism, the Larchmont Playhouse is up for sale, with no guarantee that movies will be a part of its future. However, the Pelham Picture House is hoping to change that by launching a Kickstarter campaign in an effort to raise at least $125,000 (donations will not be charged if the total falls short) as step one toward possibly assuming ownership of the Playhouse, which may otherwise fall into the hands of a developer with no intentions of preserving the original building or its programming.
“The idea came when we got some calls from folks in Larchmont who were worried about the possible fail of the building and wanted to be able to preserve it,” explains Picture House Executive Director Laura deBuys. The Picture House, which opened in 1921, can empathize. It too was going to be torn down in 2001, but thanks to the determination of a number of citizens, it was rescued and resurrected as non-profit The Picture House Regional Film Center (TPHRFC). “We know how this goes and we’d also be really excited to have another location,” adds deBuys, citing TPHRFC’s interest in linking the two facilities under one auspices connected by a short Metro-North ride. “We’re thinking we have the expertise to help Larchmont save this building, if that’s what they want.”
Whether that’s what locals want and if they’re willing to take action are the big questions. The Kickstarter page, which was made available to the public this past Thursday, will be accepting contributions for a month, and as deBuys puts it, “is really a way to gauge the temperature of the village of Larchmont itself,for; Larchmont residents to say, ‘If you build it, we will come.’” If the $125,000 minimum goal is reached—those who donate will be enlisted as Playhouse Preservation Annual Members—then TPHRFC would proceed with a search for investors to purchase the building itself. The Kickstarter funds would then be allocated for general Playhouse operating expenses.
Picture House’s prevailing concern is that, should their efforts fall short, there’s a chance the space will be used for non-communal purposes, much as their lot was designated as the future site of a commercial bank 15 years ago. And deBuys does acknowledge there are some members of the community who would prefer the Playhouse be converted into residential space. Though all Barry Synnott, the Coldwell Banker real-estate agent handling the property, would concede is that he’s received “a number of offers, so we have asked for highest and best and expect that to be completed within the next week.”
The clock is ticking, and ultimately, the outcome will hinge on either community support or the realities of business. For now, Picture House is waiting to see what Larchmont itself prefers. “Until then, we’re not making plans or moving forward,” deBuys confirms. “We need to know what they want.”