After almost decade in charge of Picture House, Laura deBuys talks about learning experience, cinema’s future as she steps down

Laura deBuys (center) makes a toast at the Pelham Picture House’s centennial.

Laura deBuys, who stepped down as executive director of the Picture House Regional Film Center in late May, talked about the learning she experienced in nine and half years in charge.

The nonprofit cinema organization “went through a lot of changes, and I learned from every bit of it,” deBuys said. “Hopefully I’ll never stop learning.”

As for the future, she said, “The Picture House is on the cusp of expanding beyond film to all sorts of arts and cultural experiences that bring communities together.”

DeBuys said her responsibilities as executive director included day-to day-management including coordinating programming and managing and hiring and firing employees. With the film center’s expansion into Bronxville, her responsibilities grew. However, the team was kept small during the transition, deBuys said, leading to her having to manage more donors and be responsible for more programming and logistics.

All of those duties taught her a great deal, deBuys said, including the importance that community and building relationships are for success. Above all, she found that in order to be successful, every step taken and every person met is essential to the good health of an organization.

She talked about the challenges faced and overcome by the nonprofit during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Picture House team worked quickly to put content out online, while maintaining a community despite not being face-to-face, all of which allowed the film center to expand after the health crisis ended.

In the position, there was also the annual challenge of having to raise money to keep the theaters open, as many people assume ticket sales are enough to sustain the operation, deBuys said. It is “baked into the DNA” of the Picture House to operate via funding from contributions, given that it is how both the theaters in Pelham and Bronxville were prevented from being shut down.

Despite all the challenges, deBuys said she had a dream job during close to a decade with the film center. She enjoyed building a community and creating access to the arts for audiences throughout Westchester and hopes the Picture House will continue to unite people by bringing them together through the joy of art.