The View from Paris #1: How Stupid Is Your Daily Paper?
by Jamie Moses - posted 10:06 am, March 19, 2008
Last Sunday, I traveled to Paris, France. On Monday, thinking I should check on things back home I perused a few local Buffalo Web sites, including Buffalonews.com, where an article about the Buffalo theater community caught my attention. It was from Sunday, March 16, written by Colin Dabkowski, and titled “How much is too much?”
Colin, a former Artvoice intern and now a staff writer for the Buffalo News, is generally a fine writer. However, one has to wonder about the point of this particular article. The basic thrust of the piece was a suggestion that there are too many theaters in Buffalo and that’s why they’re struggling to fill seats. After citing a few well-worn facts like population flight and a downturn in the economy, Colin writes:
“Yet, in flagrant opposition to logic and mathematics, Western New York is home to more than 20 professional or semiprofessional theater companies, all of which produce work regularly.”
Really? Let’s apply some logic and mathematics elsewhere. There are approximately 70 movie screens in the Buffalo area. In today’s (Wednesday, March 19) listing on Yahoo there were 326 screenings of various films. That’s 35,697,000 screenings a year. Is it any wonder that oftentimes when I go to see a film that I am one of about five or six people in the audience? Where is the Buffalo News article asking, “Are there too many movie theaters in Buffalo?”
There are over 1,400 restaurants in Buffalo and over 2,000 restaurants when you throw in the suburbs. Restaurants close and go out of business continually. Where is the Buffalo News article asking, “Are there too many restaurants in Buffalo?”
The article goes on to print such nuggets of wisdom as a quote by Kavinoky executive director David Lamb: “If the Kavinoky were the only theater in town and we were the only ones producing, I don’t think we would have a problem filling our seats.”
Gee, if I had the only restaurant in town I wouldn’t have a problem selling hamburgers either. What is this crap?
In another flash of brilliance the article notes that a majority of people in the area who have attended a theater performance went to Shea’s. Well, let’s see, Shea’s seats 3,165 people and Buffalo United Artists, for example, seats about 75 people. For BUA to host a “majority” of people who went to theater they would had to have sold out over 5,000 nights in a single year, an obvious impossibility in 365 days. Yet the Buffalo News points to this as some kind of failing among theater companies.
Why is the Buffalo News selectively publishing such a terribly negative view of our theater community? Hey, Stan Lipsey (Buffalo News publisher), I have an idea. Instead of making Colin write this ridiculous story why don’t you give the theater community a whole lot of free advertising? Has anyone noticed how many times you don’t see Buffalo United Artists, Kavinoky, Irish Classical, MusicalFare, etc., running big colorful ads in the Buffalo News like, say, a Hollywood movie does? Has anyone noticed how many times you don’t see any television advertising for the new production of Shakespeare in the Park? How often do you hear Vincent O’Neill pitching the latest offering from the Irish on any radio station? Do you think that might have something to do with the problem?
Artvoice once did a “man on the street” question about local theaters and the first respondent said, “We have theaters in Buffalo?”
There is no question that some theaters have problems. Studio Arena, for example, was run by a board…oh, I better not go there…we don’t have time. Let me say, however, many theaters do very well and consistently have great houses, good shows, and are financially stable, like BUA, Irish Classical, MusicalFare, Mary Kate O’Connell’s Cabaret-in-the-Square and so on. So just because Studio Arena has had a disastrous year, and one long overdue, we needn’t paint the whole town black.