On the northwest corner of Wolf’s lane and Brookside Avenue lies this unassuming movie house. It blends with the string of single-story brick-and-mortar storefronts and the little gas station beside it.
The theater’s name is spelled in an arching neon sign that shines bright red when turned on. “Pelham Picture House” it reads, with today’s line-up of films on the bottom.
You probably wouldn’t guess it with just a passing glance, but there’s deep history to this structure.
Nearly a century of movie magic
Built in 1921, the theater then been operating continuously since it opened.
It has retained its simple yet elegant Spanish revival style, so unlike high-tech cineplexes that have come to dominate our more modern movie experience.
In fact, it narrowly escaped being demolished in 2001-2002, when the theater was set to become a retail bank.
Part of Westchester history
A group of citizens wished to protect its rich history and established the Pelham Picture House Preservation, a non-profit organization which aimed to purchase and look-after the theater.
From 2002-2004 it successfully raised just under $1,000,000 which was enough to buy the theater and keep it open.
By that action, the nonprofit also saved a piece of Westchester history.
The theater launched its own two original film series in 2009: the preview series “Reel Insider,”which featured discussions with film talent and critics, and the classic series “Sunday Essentials.”
In 2010 The Picture House was added to the National Register of Historic Places, thus cementing its historical importance.
Since then it has attracted major movie stars like Tom Cruise, Sean Penn, Michael Douglas, Ryan Reynolds, and more to its guest list.
In 2015, The Picture House was also set to present the Future Filmmaker’s Festival, featuring students from Westchester County High School showcasing their short films in narrative, documentary, comedy, drama, and musical categories.
All will vie for the prestigious “Chester”–Westchester’s Oscar.
Whatever the future holds, the contributions of The Pelham Picture House has already earned Westchester the title “Hollywood on the East Coast.”