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Pelham Examiner

Pelham Examiner

Clayton Bushong, Pelham’s impresario, brings his vision to top job at Picture House

Clayton Bushong, executive director of the Picture House Regional Film Center. (Photo courtesy the Picture House)

With more than a decade working in a range of roles at the Picture House Regional Film Center, Clayton Bushong is bringing his artistic vision to the top position after becoming executive director of the nonprofit theaters in October.

Starting in 2012, he has worked as operations manager, marketing coordinator and director of programming, business development and operations at the Picture House. Most recently, he was acting executive director of the film center with theaters in Pelham and Bronxville and is also known in Pelham for running two restaurants, among other entertainment and hospitality ventures.

“We have a lot to think about because everything is changing with movie theaters,” Bushong said in an interview. “They continue to close because it is hard to make movie theaters work in this day and age of streaming and studio demands. We had a great summer with ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer,’ but the studio takes 65% of every dollar that gets spent on a movie ticket. These are really important institutions to places like Pelham and Bronxville, and we need to support them.”

“Movies are something that touches everybody in a very emotional and different way,” he continued. “We all watch movies differently, in the sense of what we see. It’s nice to be able to watch a movie, and sometimes when you’re watching it at home by yourself, you can’t talk to your friends about it or the people sitting next to you. Whereas when you’re in the Picture House, you get to experience that movie-going as a community. After Covid, everyone was left alone. People must continue to find ways to connect and not disconnect. I fell in love with movies personally at a very young age, and I like sharing that experience with other people.”

Bushong said he is looking to use the Picture House’s spaces for other programming as well. This includes the new beer and wine license. The Picture House can be a “place to hang out and not even have to see a movie,” he said. “You can come and have a beer and maybe some food café-style in both Pelham and Bronxville.”

In the area of hospitality, Bushong has much experience. He is known by many in town as c0-founder and co-owner of Cantina Lobos and Sweet Lincoln, roles in which he continues. He also plans concerts in New Rochelle and co-founded the Tipsy Podcast Network, including the “803 Podcast.”

‘I love being a part of that community spirit’

He juggles those different ventures with the support of partners, something he needs even more of since his promotion at the film center.

“I co-own Cantina with a lot of other people in town,” Bushong said. “Some of us share responsibility for running it. I have a great partner for Sweet Lincoln with Mark Kindig. I always have my best friend and coworker Amy Cole, whom I do much of the New Rochelle and podcast stuff with. She picks up a lot of the work on that. I’m finding I need to push a lot of this work off onto other people because the job that I have now at the Picture House is demanding. I’m committed to doing that for the next few years and making sure Cantina continues as a great restaurant.”

“I love hosting people,” he said. “I love being a part of that community spirit, whether it’s eating or having ice cream or seeing a concert or seeing a movie, I love the energy in the room of a good movie or a bad movie or having good tacos, so it is important to me to serve the community in that way.”

His plans for the Picture House include renovating the Pelham location and an outreach program for senior citizens. The Pelham theater was last renovated a little more 15 years ago and is “starting to show some wear and tear,” Bushong said, indicating money must be invested in the infrastructure within the next few years.

With a grant for senior citizen programming, the film center is offering free movie screenings on Tuesdays for seniors to build community, a program that has expanded to the Bronxville theater.

And there’s more to come: “We’re bringing back Marquee Night, which we haven’t had for over a year or two now,” Bushong said. “We’re going to celebrate local filmmakers from Westchester who support the film community and the Picture House in various ways. We’re super excited about those parties, and, now that the writer’s and actor’s strikes are over, a lot of the movies have been pushed to 2024. We are expecting it to be a great year for movies.”

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About the Contributor
Shannon Winston, Contributing Editor
Shannon is a junior at Pelham Memorial High School. She has written for the Pelham Examiner for the past year. She loves playing field hockey, lacrosse, sailing, and running indoor track. She enjoys engaging with her community through service and writing about town events in the Pelham Examiner.

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