BEDFORD, N.Y. – The Bedford Playhouse is back.
To be sure, a movie theater has operated out of the Old Post Road building since 1947. The Bedford Playhouse, however, has always been about more than showing movies, said Lindsay Hearon, marketing director.
For decades, that spirit was lost. In 2014, declining attendance put the Bedford Playhouse’s future in jeopardy and the two-screen movie theater closed. The community, Hearon said, just wasn’t ready to let go.
“Everyone was nervous that it was going to become a Dunkin’ Donuts or a CVS,” Hearon told The Katonah-Lewisboro Times during an exclusive tour of the redeveloped Playhouse.
A grass-roots organization was formed under the leadership of Bedford resident John Farr, with the goal of transforming it into a not-for-profit arts house cinema, cultural center and community hub that would return the Bedford Playhouse to its glory days. The $6-million-plus donor-driven renovations began in spring 2017, after famed music executive Clive Davis made a six-figure contribution, the exact amount undisclosed. In total, the not-for-profit group raised more than $8 million.
“He didn’t start [the fund-raising],” Hearon said. “He finished it, though.”
As president of Columbia Records and Arista Records, Davis is known for discovering such legendary artists as Janis Joplin, Santana, Bruce Springsteen, Chicago, Billy Joel, Aerosmith and Pink Floyd. The Pound Ridge resident was also a driving force in the careers of Whitney Houston and Barry Manilow.
“He generously stepped up and said he wanted to be a part of this,” Hearon said.
Because of that generosity, the Bedford Playhouse will now be known as the home of the Clive Davis Arts Center. In addition to the main 165-seat movie theater on the lower level, there are also two other entertainment rooms: The Clive and The Worby.
The Clive is an intimate theater with only a few dozen seats. It will host niche film screenings and one-on-one appearances with celebrity guests.
The Worby is an adaptable space with movable furniture. It has dozens of potential uses, from round-table discussions and teenage dance parties to a homework room for local students.
“All of our spaces will be available for rent,” Hearon said.
The Bedford Playhouse also has a new Playhouse Cafe, which will serve light meals, smoothies and coffee and have free WiFi for laptop-toting guests. The idea of the renovation, Hearon said, was to make the Bedford Playhouse a space where the community feels welcome.
“There will always be a warm, wonderful vibe once we get it going,” Hearon said.
Another well-known musician who contributed to the Bedford Playhouse was Paul Shaffer, David Letterman’s longtime band leader, who donated a baby grand piano.
An appearance by Shaffer and Davis will highlight the opening weekend festivities, which begin Friday, Sept. 28.
The opening-night festivities will feature some red carpet fun, as “paparazzi” and “press” surround the incoming theatergoers. Also scheduled are beer and wine tastings, food, film trivia events and a screening of “Dirty Dancing,” which was nearly sold out at the time of this writing. With enough demand, a second screening may be added.
Hearon said the film was chosen after polling the community on what their favorite “guilty pleasure” movie is. To commemorate the film’s final scene, professional dancers will enter the theater, come down the aisles and perform the iconic dance routine.
The following night, Shaffer and Davis will be on hand for a conversation with guests in the main theater. There will also be hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, live music and dancing.
The opening weekend will conclude on Sunday with a family day. There will be a screening of “Despicable Me” and a sing-a-long screening of the “The Sound of Music,” with theatergoers belting out the classic tunes. There will also be storytelling, sleight-of-hand magicians, puppets, live music and more.
In the days leading up to the opening weekend, Hearon said, Bedford residents may see a Minion or two walking around town handing out flyers.
Tickets for the Friday and Sunday non-film festivities are $19.47, to commemorate the Playhouse’s opening year. Learn more about the events at bedfordplayhouse.org.
Hearon said the Bedford Playhouse is busy finalizing even more events, possibly including some of Bedford’s resident celebrities.
“We’re getting major people who want to be a part of the Playhouse,” she said.
The Bedford Playhouse is saving some of its reveals until later this year. A VIP tasting and green room will open on Oct. 18 at an invite-only reveal party, but there will be a “sneak-peak” at the grand opening.
The room was sponsored by NYC&G Magazine, R.C. Torre Construction, Brittany Bromley Interiors, JWH Design & Cabinetry, Vaughan, Bender Thermador, Neolith, Infinity Stone, The Tailored Home, Fordham Marble Resource House of Paints and Aitoro Appliance.
“We are so excited and honored that the Bedford Playhouse Tasting & Green Room was selected for this incredible renovation opportunity,” said Sarah Long, Bedford Playhouse Board chairman. “This will be a very important room for us where special guests, celebrities and speakers can relax before going on stage. Each of the venues in the new Playhouse has its own warm and wonderful personality. Thanks to Brittany and the C&G team’s creative stamp, our most elegant and intimate room yet is coming to fruition.”