Jacob Burns Film Center’s Message to the Public about Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 

Updated 8/4/20

If you’ve passed by the Theater recently, you may have noticed the posters of film series past in the windows. It’s a gesture on our part—our small way of celebrating the nearly 20 years the Burns has been part of the community, and a big reminder to all of you that we will be back. Each day that our doors are closed pains us. We want nothing more than to be able to welcome you back to the entertaining, inspiring, and artful world of cinema at the JBFC.

Our theaters remain closed under the directive of New York State. At this moment, there is no clear guidance about when we might be allowed to reopen. We are using this time to implement a number of improvements to our facilities to ensure a safe and healthful environment when audiences return.

Some changes you will notice right away—a new outdoor box office window to relieve lobby congestion, plexiglass barriers, and markers indicating rows that must remain clear to facilitate social distancing. Other improvements may not be visible, like our new bipolar ionization air purification system that filters out airborne particles. Returning staff will be trained in new operational and cleaning protocols. The well-being of our staff and patrons is our highest priority.

As you can imagine, this time of closure has been extremely difficult for the Burns financially. To counter the loss of ticket revenue, we’ve taken the necessary steps to lower our expenses, including staff layoffs and freezing discretionary spending. We received a Paycheck Protection Program loan through the CARES Act, which has been very helpful.

We are deeply grateful to the many members and donors who continue to support the Burns by renewing or increasing their annual membership gifts and contributing to our JBFC Together Campaign at this time. These contributions help us cover our essential operating expenses and offset the cancellation of our September Gala, which typically raises over $450,000 for our film and education programs.

Given the uncertainty around when we may be able to reopen physically, we are devoting new energy towards enhancing our virtual programming capacity. While our Virtual Screening Room continues to offer new releases and classic films from independent distributors, we plan to move forward with signature JBFC film programs in a virtual format.

We are currently working to identify streaming platforms and special guests for JBFC series favorites, including the Westchester Jewish Film Festival, Focus on Nature, Life on the Stage, Inquiry: Science on Screen, Global Watch, and Remix.

At the same time, we are committed to Image, Sound, and Story, our innovative media education curriculum. Given the success of the curriculum, coupled with the urgent need for enhanced virtual learning, we are exploring opportunities to offer this program to teachers and students across the country.

When the JBFC Board asked me to serve as the Acting Executive Director in March, no one foresaw this extended period of closure and the vast uncertainties that lay ahead. I’ve been honored to work with our dedicated staff to navigate the organization operationally and financially through this difficult period. My goal has been to ensure that a solid financial footing and forward-looking plans are in place to allow the Burns to emerge on the other side of this pandemic as the strong and vibrant institution that we all know and love.

It will soon be time for me to step aside and turn this leadership work over to another. I’m pleased to share with you that the Board has hired an Interim Executive Director, Margo Amgott, who will officially start on September 1. Margo has broad experience in transitional leadership of not-for-profit organizations. She has already begun to work with us on a consulting basis, getting to know our staff, board of directors, and operations. I have every confidence that Margo will expertly guide the organization in the months ahead.

Once again, thank you for your continued and generous support. Take a look at our posters the next time you are in Pleasantville—I hope they remind you of the fascinating films, insightful guests and conversations, and joy of sharing remarkable experiences with the Burns community. Next year marks our 20th anniversary, and we look forward to celebrating all that we have accomplished together then. Things may look a little different when we are able to reopen, but our film and education programs will be as vibrant and engaging as ever.

Until that time, please know that we miss you and please stay well. Thank you for remaining by our side.

My very best,
— Janet Benton
Acting Executive Director


Updated 4/9/20

The continuing impact of COVID19 necessitates difficult decisions and changes to JBFC operations, which you can read more about in a letter from Acting Executive Director Janet Benton.


Updated 3/17/20

Following Governor Cuomo’s mandate that movie theaters close until further notice, we will reopen as soon as it is advisable to do so. We appreciate your understanding as we work through this challenging time.

>Supporting the JBFC community TOGETHER. We need you more than ever before. Please consider a tax-deductible gift to help us get through this challenging time. Thank you for remaining by our side.

>Looking for ways to stay busy while social distancing? Check out JBFC at Home, a one-stop shop featuring all of our virtual new releases, streaming suggestions, media activities, work-from-home resources, and more.


Updated 3/12/20

In response to the recent community spread of COVID-19 in Westchester County, and out of deep care and concern for our wonderful JBFC community, we have made the difficult decision to suspend all film and education programs beginning Friday, March 13 through March 31. This is a precautionary and voluntary measure as we currently have no known cases of novel coronavirus COVID-19 associated with the JBFC campus. During this time, the Theater and Media Arts Lab will be closed to the public, and our administrative staff will continue to work remotely.

Given the recommendations from the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control about social distancing, we believe this is the most responsible and prudent action to protect the well-being of our community and staff.

Unfortunately, this means the Westchester Jewish Film Festival is also canceled. We will make every effort to reschedule the festival at a later date.

All ticketholders will have the opportunity to convert the value of their ticket purchase into a tax-deductible charitable donation to the Jacob Burns Film Center. Please contact support@burnsfilmcenter.org by end-of-day on Monday, March 16 if you’d like to support the JBFC in this way.

For those who would prefer refunds of purchased tickets, there is no need to respond. Beginning Tuesday, our customer support team will refund all ticket purchases via credit card for screenings through March 31 and all purchases for the Jewish Film Festival. Any ticket purchases by cash at the box office will require refunding through the box office after we re-open.

We appreciate your support in this unprecedented time and will share our plans when we re-evaluate at the end of the month.

If you have any questions, please contact us at support@burnsfilmcenter.org.


The presence of novel coronavirus COVID-19 in Westchester County reminds us of the importance of taking care of ourselves and one another, as we come together to watch films and participate in education programs on the JBFC campus.

We are committed to keeping our facilities as clean and sanitary as possible. Here are some of the additional steps we are taking:

  • In addition to our regular cleanings, we’re frequently disinfecting all high-touch surfaces, including countertops, door handles, elevator buttons, and railings. Guests are encouraged to bring their own personal sanitizing wipes to clean seat armrests. Please dispose of all wipes properly.
  • We’re awaiting the arrival of a hand-sanitizing station for our theater lobby, and will install it as soon as it is received.
  • Our staff are committed to keeping their hands clean and sanitary and have been instructed to stay home if they’re not feeling well.
  • We’ve increased signage around our facilities with reminders about keeping yourself and others healthy.


Some helpful reminders for all of us:

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly and always before eating or drinking. Wash for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, and use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to kill germs.
  • At receptions where food is offered, please wait for assistance from our staff instead of self-serving. We thank you for your cooperation and patience.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth, and face with unwashed hands.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or into a tissue. If you use a tissue, dispose of it in the trash immediately.
  • If you have cold and flu symptoms, or are not feeling well, please stay home. We look forward to welcoming you back to the movies when you’re feeling better.
  • If you are a person at high risk for serious illness from COVID-19, please familiarize yourself with the Center for Disease Control’s recommendations for protecting yourself from transmission.


Some other helpful resources:


We will continue to monitor this developing situation closely and comply with recommendations and instructions from our local and state health departments.

Our customer support team can be reached at support@burnsfilmcenter.org. We appreciate your cooperation in keeping our film community as healthy as possible.


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