Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Logo for The Western Front

Q&A: Susan Purves, Pickford’s executive director

Purves talks big picture on more motion pictures set to come to the Pickford through its expansion on Grand Avenue

The new Pickford location on Feb. 20, 2024 on Grand Avenue in Bellingham, Wash., purchased for $900,000. The new location is only a block from the existing Bay Street location. // Photo Courtesy of Susan Purves

The Pickford Film Center, an independent cinema located in downtown Bellingham, is expanding to a second location at 105 Grand Ave. With the expansion comes three additional screens to the existing two screens at the Bay Street theater. 

The estimated cost of the entire project, including the $900,000 purchase of the building, is $2.1 million. Over $1 million was raised through small foundations and individual donations, $533,000 from Washington Building for the Arts, a program of the Washington State Department of Commerce and Arts, and $300,000 from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust

Susan Purves, Pickford Film Center’s executive director, sheds light on the process of expanding, gives us a camera snapshot of the motivations behind the projects and leads the action in opening the Grand avenue location. 

Q: What are the Pickford’s motivations for expanding?

A: Well, going into the pandemic, we had two venues. There was a venue on Cornwall and it had one screen that was called the Limelight. And then we have the theater on Bay Street that has two screens, and without having three screens, or a minimum of three screens, we're really not serving the public with all the films that we produce showing. It's very difficult for us to have a sustainable business model. So those two things go hand in hand. We want to show more films and we have to show more films to be stable.

Q: Relating to the specific logistics of the Grand Avenue expansion, how was that location determined?

A: First, we were looking for a place to rent because we had rented the Limelight, and that had worked out well. But then when we started thinking about what it actually costs to build a theater, it didn't make sense anymore to rent a space because then we would be at the mercy of the landlord for things, including how long we could stay. … So we decided to buy a building. And right at that time, there were a number of buildings for sale in Bellingham and there was a little dip in the commercial real estate market. So actually, the two buildings that we were considering that made the most sense were both within a block of the existing Pickford on Bay Street. So we chose the one that made the most sense for what we wanted to do and the kind of build out we felt we could undertake. 

Q: What do you think the Pickford’s expansion means for its members?

A: For the membership, it means that there's more films that they get to go see. I think that there's other groups of people that it probably will mean a lot to as well. In the last few years, the percentage of our audience that's made up of students has grown, more than doubled from pre-pandemic numbers. And I think that there's a lot of interest from the student population in independent films right now and I think we can serve that audience much better by having more scenes and being able to show a wider variety of films, whether they're repertory films or new films. And for the general public, people just want to go downtown and have something interesting to do, just to see more options the day we open the door. So I think it's a good situation for everybody and not just our members.

Find out more about the Pickford Film Center’s expansion here.

Eleanor Peterson

Eleanor Peterson (she/her) is excited to be working as a city news reporter for The Front this quarter. She is in her senior year at Western majoring in communication studies and minoring in journalism with an emphasis in public relations. Eleanor enjoys going for scenic walks, drinking iced lattes and creating music playlists in her free time. You can contact Eleanor at

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Western Front