BEDFORD, N.Y. -- Bedford's John Farr has been interested in movies for most of his life.
“I’ve loved movies of all types and stripes since I was 5," he said.
Now, Farr is facing a big challenge: raising $2.5 million in pledges by March 1 to pay for the conversion of the shuttered Bedford Playhouse movie theater space into a nonprofit arts center.
Farr, whose past career was in the advertising industry, lives near downtown Bedford Village, where the Playhouse is located. He calls the theater “a precious jewel in the heart of Bedford Village that could go away forever.”
Farr, who runs a movie guide site called bestmoviesbyfarr.com , helped spearhead the conversion of Stamford's Avon Theatre roughly a decade ago.
The theater closed on Jan. 4 because tenant Bow Tie Cinemas opted not to stay. Farr learned about the impending exit last summer, and in the fall he founded the group Friends of Bedford Playhouse, which is conducting the pledge drive.
The group has an advisory board, whose members include actor Chevy Chase and his wife, Jayni, along with Lena Olin and Lasse Hallstrom. It also has a 17-member steering committee. Wendy Ross, former executive director for Friends of John Jay Homestead, has the same role with the group.
The proposal for the space, built in 1947, includes removing a partition that divides space into two equal-sized theaters. Originally, the playhouse only had one screen.
Farr, who says the space is “simply run-down,” argues that having two smaller screens does not work because actors and directors won't want to show their movies on them for events, which are planned to serve as a revenue generator.
Under the proposal, there would be a large main theater of about 280 seats and a smaller one with roughly 90. Farr envisions hosting a mix of independent films, documentaries, foreign films and classics.
Farr wants to show movies that cater to “thinking adults.” However, he envisions some programming being devoted to kids.
Additionally, Farr sought to differentiate his concept from Pleasantville's Jacob Burns Film Center, which has a similar model. He explained that the Burns serves people primarily from the south, while the playhouse serves people farther north in places like North Salem and Pound Ridge. He also believes that people who live near both, like in Chappaqua or Mount Kisco, can go to each.
A survey conducted for Farr last fall showed that a majority of people would pay in a lower range. Farr explained that this is “par for the course," noting that nonprofit theaters usually have a small number of big donors.
Ticket sales would also be a key revenue source.
Asked why there is a March 1 deadline, Farr explained that he negotiated it with the building's landlord, Kenneth Horn.
Explaining the deadline's purpose, Horn, who owns the property through a company called Alchemy Bedford, said rental income is needed to keep the property operational.
Horn prefers that a theater occupies the space -- Alchemy Bedford even donated to Farr's group to help with startup costs -- but says he will convert it to retail if he can't get a tenant.
Farr sympathizes with Horn on the matter.
“He’s a businessman. You know, I understand all that."
Farr's group is hosting a public meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Katonah Village Library. People interested in pledging can use the group's website, which is here.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.