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Lessons from 2020, Plans for 2021

by Laura deBuys

Here are some lessons from 2020: nothing is ever certain, nothing is guaranteed to go to plan, nothing is stronger than community.

 The Picture House is a mature and stable nonprofit – but in the nonprofit world saying an organization is ‘stable’ has more to do with longevity and good governance than the ability to withstand even minor downturns in the economy. We have no endowment, no operating cushion, no way to withstand a necessary physical closure of ten months and counting. 

And yet. 

Timing was in our favor (we were able to hold our major fundraiser before shutdown), we pivoted quickly to online operations which — although not a factor in our economic survival — kept us focused on mission and connected with our community, and we were able to access federal aid. But that alone was enough to enable our survival. 

The key to our survival was you. Throughout the year, you — our donors, members, and film lovers — were by our side, sending financial support that carried a message: we believe in you, you are important to us, we want you to survive. With so much pandemic need in the world, to be included in your must-haves was extraordinarily moving and motivating.

So we have arrived in 2021, whole, energized, and excited about the year ahead. 

We are cautiously optimistic that we will be able to open the theater in March or April, likely at reduced capacity, and that our capacity will increase with wide distribution of the Covid 19 vaccines. (Our ability to open is dependent upon a countywide 14-day infection rate that is under 2%).

But we did learn from the lessons of 2020 – so we have back-up plans! We will continue our TPH at Home screenings, events, and classes for the foreseeable future. We’ve discovered that some things actually work better online — providing access to those who cannot make it to the theater, even in ‘normal’ times. We will continue our school residencies in ways that meet the needs of each school — but with curricula, in all cases, that can pivot from online to offline and back again. 

And we’ll celebrate — because, you see, we’ve arrived at our second century! Our historic theater was built in 1921 and we will celebrate our centennial from March of 2021 through March of 2022.  

We’ll keep you posted on details as we go. Until then, please stay safe. We’ve still got a way to go, but with this community, anything is possible!

— Laura deBuys

Executive Director and President, The Picture House