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Pleasantville: Escape The Summer Blockbuster Season

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – With "Marvel's The Avengers" the third highest grossing film of all time and the premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises" just around the corner, some movie theaters in Westchester are offering an alternative to the summer season of routine blockbusters, comic book movies and sequels.

From music documentaries and new releases to action-packed martial arts films, summer programming can be a far cry from the moody art films usually associated with independent theaters, and a good reason to forsake the couch and Netflix for an evening out.

The Picture House in Pelham screens everything from renowned international films to family favorites, such as "Matilda" and "Ghostbusters." The tax-deductible membership makes the cost of a monthly trip for two to the movies about $50 less a year than traditional theaters that charge $12 per ticket, said Picture House representatives.

The theater also provides advanced purchase options that shave $3 off the price of regular admission.

Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville extends a similar membership package to movie-goers. Brian Ackerman, the programming director for the film center, said the popularity of memberships tends to increase as more people head to the movies in the summer.

Multiplexes premiere about two new films per month, but theaters such as Jacob Burns and The Picture House screen more films with shorter runs, providing new options every few days, their representatives said.

"Independent theaters are playing something else," Ackerman said, referring to the one-note appeal of summer blockbusters.

Independent theaters also offer more than just a film, said Ackerman.  After seeing a movie at a multiplex, he said movie-goers "just trudge out afterward." But creative programming at independent theaters, he said, keeps audiences in their seats after the credits roll by bringing filmmakers, experts and even celebrities to the stage following a movie.

"Union Square” screens at Jacob Burns two days before it hits theaters and its Director Nancy Savoca will participate in a question and answer session there after the movie.

"We sort of like to create a sense of community," Ackerman said. "The idea is let's sit and talk with someone who know something about this film."

Some larger theaters also seem to be taking some lessons from independent theaters. Clearview Cinemas locations throughout Westchester often mix mainstream with smaller, independent films. So while Bronxville Cinemas caters to fans of pop singer Katy Perry in her 3D movie, the theater is also screening Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" this month.

Embracing the tie between music and summer, some Westchester theaters are filling up schedules with music documentaries. The Sounds of Summer music documentary series runs through August at Jacob Burns and The Picture House is presenting a retrospective of Frank Sinatra's legacy in the recording industry.

"Basically a lot of the multiplexes are showing engineered products, all meant to appeal to a single audience," Ackerman said. "There's a much bigger world out there and we try to provide some of that with our summer programming."

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