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Letter to the Editor: Preserve the Film Tax Credit

When I moved to Buffalo 11 years ago, there was no film industry.  Commercials, maybe, and the occasional indie feature like Poultrygeist, but that was it.   This started to change with the popularity of pro-sumer HD equipment: a lot of local filmmakers started making features here: now dozens are making micro-budget indie features and many more making shorts, and local and semi-local filmmakers have made bigger films here, like The Romans and The American Side.  We’ve seen an influx of progressively larger out of town shoots make their movies here: Model Hunger, Return to Nuke ‘Em High: Volume 1 & 2, Battledogs, a $1 million feature wrapping now called Anna.

We have a small Film Commission here – a two-man operation (that used to be a one- man operation).  I’ve worked closely with them on some projects, and I’ve done other projects that didn’t require their support, but I’ve always supported them and their efforts to bring productions here.  Last year, the news broke that beginning in 2015, Western New York is getting a 5% bump in the New York State Film Tax Credit: any production shooting here that takes the time to meet the state’s requirements, and does its post here, will receive 40% of its qualified costs (excluding above the line fees like writers, producers, director and stars) back from the state – 5% more than productions would see in NYC.  It’s an incentive to bring films and film jobs here, not “corporate welfare.”  NYC already does well with productions, and WNY needs all the help it can get.  Who’s responsible for this bump for WNY?  A lot of the credit goes to Buffalo-Niagara Film Commissioner Tim Clark, Rochester Film & Video Office Executive Director Nora Brown, and Buffalo Film Office Director of Operations Rich Wall, who worked tirelessly to push this through.  And it’s working: Anna shot here because of the Film Tax Credit, more films in the $1 mil – $2 mil range will come here, and out of town filmmakers contact me frequently to discuss the film tax credit, locations and crew.  At a time when Buffalo is turning around, we’re actually seeing something many of us thought would take another decade: a vital film production industry that will enable many of us to make a living in our chosen fields.

Now Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino wants to phase out business incentives in NYS to lower the personal income tax rate – including the Film Tax Credit.  It’s pandering to the public, because so many people have adopted an anti-taxes stance as their religion, rather than using their common sense to arrive at a sound judgment.  Getting rid of this credit, or sharply reducing it, will stop Buffalo’s film industry dead in its tracks; it will also seriously harm – possibly destroy – the film industry in NYC.  Without that, the entire state will suffer, and anyone here who hopes to make a living in film will have to go elsewhere.  This isn’t a Democrat vs. Republican issue (Republicans are supposed to be pro-business, remember?).  Rob Astorino is the enemy of film production in NYS, and a vote for Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins is a defacto vote for Astorino.  If you want to see a film industry in Buffalo, and if you want to see the billion dollar film industry in NYC – which benefits the entire state – continue, Andrew Cuomo is the only choice. Keep your eye on the prize, New York!

– Gregory Lamberson, Cheektowaga

Rennovations at the Eastern Hills Mall Cinema

Filed under: News

Although it is one of Western New York’s most reliable destinations for art house films, the Eastern Hills Mall Cinema had been getting a bit run down in recent years. Operators Dipson Theaters have just finished a major upgrade of all three auditoriums, including new highback leather fabric theater chairs with movable armrests, cup holders, and soft-cushion armrests. The rows are also spaced further apart allowing for more leg room. And all of the auditoriums have been given new tile floors. Further upgrades are planned for here and other Dipson locations including the Amherst Theater.

Buffalo Film Seminars to move to the Amherst Theater in September

Filed under: News, Uncategorized

It’s long been suspected, but now it’s official: UB professors Bruce Jackson and Diane Christian will be moving their popular Buffalo Film Seminars from the Market Arcade to the Amherst Theater beginning this September, citing the Mayor’s office’s lack of interest in supporting the theater as a community resource.

Here’s the text of a letter by Bruce Jackson sent to the Film Seminar’s mailing list:

The Fall 2014 Buffalo Film Seminars, our 29th series, will take place at the Amherst Theater rather then the Market Arcade, where they have been for the past 15 years.

This shift in location is because Buffalo’s Mayor’s Office decided not to continue supporting the theater as a major community arts resource, but instead to put it on the open market for developers. It will take months for that to process to work out and, and months more for the theatre to be brought up to date (if the new owner wants it to be a theater at all). Because the Buffalo Film Seminars are is grounded in a UB class that is open to the public, we can’t just stand by and wait for the political money to change hands and the necessary development to be completed.

So far as we know, there are four potential bidders on the property. One has approached us and said his company would like the theater to continue as a community resource. Another, according to the Buffalo News, wants to turn the property into a “Laverne and Shirley Bar and Bowling Alley,” with community offerings on the side; we know nothing about the other two potential bidders.

Mayor Byron Brown has been unfriendly to the arts since he took office, so we don’t think the presence of this important center of arts activity will have much to do with how the deal goes down. His office had never appreciated the quality of life or economic implications of a vital arts community.

More important is time and technology: if the Market Arcade doesn’t upgrade to digital production in a month or two, the theater will go dark. Hollywood will soon be distributing almost nothing in celluloid, so the theater’s projectors will all be obsolete very soon. We cannot want until fall to find out what a potential developer might say he wants to do with that space, and then wait another six months to find out if is actually does it. One of the potential developers apparently wants to drive all the community groups out of the theater.

Several months ago, the Buffalo Common Council unanimously voted to provide the theater four new digital projectors. That purchase would have permitted the theater to keep operating. But the Mayor’s office blocked it. The Mayor’s legal department said that since the theater was run by a private company, the City couldn’t provide such funding. That was total nonsense, totally untrue. The theater is owned by the City and it is managed by a not-for-profit corporation created by the city, the board of which is mostly appointed by the Mayor. (Bruce is chairman of that board.)

So the city blocked maintenance of the Market Arcade as a public resource, not because it had to, but because politicians in City Hall decided to.

The two of us have been doing the Buffalo Film Seminars for 15 years now. We would prefer to continue in the heart of the city. But City Hall seems hot to turn a buck. So we are moving to the Amherst, which is located outside the Buffalo city line. We love our relationship with Dipson Theaters, which has made it possible to maintain this series all these years, but we hate abandoning downtown. We wish City Hall gave a hoot for the arts—but it doesn’t, so we’re moving.

If the new owners of the Market Arcade, whoever they turn out to be, create an environment in which it seems viable for us to move back downtown, we’ll be happy to do that. But as of now, City Hall has driven the Buffalo Film Seminars out of town. We’re happy that our friends at Dipson’s Amherst Theater have offered us a new home. We hope to see you at the movies in the Fall.

The Amherst has lots of free parking, handicapped parking close to the theater, the same popcorn, and is on the city metro and UB bus circuit.

Bruce and Diane
Here’s the tentative Fall 2014 schedule:
Aug 26 D.W. Griffith, BROKEN BLOSSOMS, 1919, 90 min
Sep 2 Fritz Lang, M, 1931

Sep 9 William Cameron Menzies, THINGS TO COME, 1936, 100 min

Sep 16 Howard Hawks, RED RIVER, 1948, 127 min Criterion

Sep 23 Robert Bresson, PICKPOCKET, 1959, 76 min, Criterion

Sep 30 Luis Buñuel, VIRIDIANA, 1961, 90 min

Oct 7 Agnés Varda, CLEO FROM 5 TO 7, 1962

Oct 14 Akira Kurosawa, REDBEARD, 1965 Criterion

Oct 21 Nicolas Roeg, PERFORMANCE, 1970, Warner Bro

Oct 28 Víctor Erice, THE SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE, 1973 (Criterion)

Nov 4 Roman Polanski, TESS, 1979 Criterion

Nov 11 Sydney Pollack, TOOTSIE, 1982

Nov 18 Joel and Ethan Coen, FARGO, 1996, 98 min

Nov 25 Erik Skjodbjaerg, INSOMNIA, 1997, 97 min

Dec 2Mike Nichols, CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR, 2007

Bruce Jackson
SUNY Distinguished Professor & James Agee Professor of American Culture


Long Nights, Bright Paranoia opens at Hallwalls

Filed under: News

Tonight Hallwalls begins a month-long series of Tuesday night screenings curated by the gallery’s visual arts director John Messier. Titled “Long Nights, Bright Paranoia,” the films are linked by their strong visual styles and themes of paranoia. Tonight’s film is the original INVADERS FROM MARS (1953). Upcoming movies in the series include John Frankenheimer’s SECONDS (Feb 11), the 1994 cult hit DARK CITY (Feb 18), and the classic 1974 political thriller THE PARALLAX VIEW (Feb. 25). All film start at 7 pm. Tickets is $8 general admission, $6 students and seniors, $5 for Hallwalls members. For more information visit

Bruce Jackson on the closing of the Market Arcade Film and Arts Center

After the piece in Friday’s Buffalo News about the imminent closing of the Market Arcade Film and Arts Center, UB professor Bruce Jackson posted the following comments to Facebook. As the co-host with Diane Christian of the theater’s popular Buffalo Film Seminars (now in its 15th year) and the vice-chairman of the theater’s volunteer board, Jackson is particularly qualified to talk about the situation. Here’s what he had to say:

After Mark Sommer’s excellent article about the perilous condition of the Market Arcade Theater appeared in Friday’s Buffalo News ( there were a bunch of online comments attacking Dipson Theaters as the villain in the whole affair. That is totally crazy. The Market Arcade could not have survived the past 14 years, and Diane Christian and I could not have done the Buffalo Film Seminars, were it not for the very serious work to keep the theater alive by Mike Clement, president of Dipson. A lot of silly, erroneous, and perhaps planted things appeared in those comments following Mark’s article. I read as many of them as I could take and then posted a comment of my own.

Two further comments before you read it. The first: one of the reporters who called me today about this sorry affair said Brendan R. Mehaffy, head of the city’s Office of Strategic Planning, told him we’d never offered a serious business plan for the theatre. That’s hearsay and I hope Mr Mehaffy didn’t say that, because we’ve been sending City Hall detailed business plans for the theater for three years. It just isn’t true. There is a detailed business plan, which Mike Clement of Dipson and Buffalo Place spent a lot of time preparing.

The second is this: the city regularly gives developers millions of dollars in tax breaks. It would cost the city only a few hundred thousand dollars to make the Market Arcade a totally viable, self-sustaining enterprise. In practical terms, there is no difference in the city giving a developer millions in tax breaks and the city giving a major resource what it needs to survive. Both have exactly the same effect on the city’s bottom line. A tax break and a check are functionally the same: the city deciding this is in our community’s interest, so let’s invest in it.

Keeping the Market Arcade alive requires only one thing: that the second floor of City Hall decide that Buffalo really should have a movie theatre downtown. If the mayor’s office decides the city could use a theatre like MAFAC, these problems will evaporate in a day. If it doesn’t, you’ll soon see condos and maybe a bar in the building where we’ve been showing movies.

Here’s my Buffalo News response to the vicious emails attacking Dipson:

The comments in this string attacking Dipson for problems with the Market Arcade are all silly-putty. Diane Christian and I have been doing the Buffalo Film Seminars at MAFAC for 15 years. For every year but the first, which was handled by Angelika in NYC who were total scoundrels, we’ve worked with Mike Clement of Dipson. We couldn’t have done any of this without Mike’s commitment to downtown Buffalo. Mike and Dipson aren’t our enemy, they aren’t predators, they aren’t villains. Mike as a person and Dipson and a corporation really care about what is going on here.

Neither Mike Clement nor Dipson has ever been part of the not-for-profit corporation that runs the theater. I am. I’m vice-chairman of the theater’s volunteer board. Mike and Dipson have worked with that volunteer board and they have done this city huge service.

The ONLY reason we haven’t been able to improve that theater in all these years is because City Hall didn’t care, because it didn’t think this kind of artistic complex in the heart of the city was worth as much as a new condo by the developer-de-jour. Every week, when Diane and I went down to do the Buffalo Film Seminars, we wondered if we’d encounter locked doors because the building was being converted to something else. We could never get a lease. No foundation could give us grants to improve the place if we couldn’t prove we’d be there a year hence. The City has refused to give the not-for-profit corporation a lease, so we’ve been unable to make any improvements. It’s that simple. Mike Clement has come up with one financial operating plan after another; they’ve all been met by dead silence.

It’s been bad for years, but now that film is almost gone, it’s critical. Mike Clement has sacrificed a lot of time, energy and money to keep the Market Arcade alive and going. The people who’ve attacked him here haven’t a clue what they’re talking about. If the City of Buffalo had cared about MAFAC half as much as Mike Clement we’d have a movie theater worthy as a partner of our friends across the street, Shea’s. We’d have a movie theater capable of serving all those people moving into all those city-underwritten condos. If the city put a fraction of the money into MAFAC as it has put into the condos (when it comes to the bottom line, a multi-million dollar tax exemption is no different than a multi-million dollar check), we’d have a theater that could serve us all, a theater of which we could be proud, a theater that could do its job. That’s what Mike, Diane, the working members of the Board, Buffalo place and I have been trying to do all these years. If the second floor of City Hall got that simple point, the City would be so much better for it.

Bruce Jackson
SUNY Distinguished Professor
Vice-chair, MAFAC Board of Directors

The Food That America Eats: A culinary excursion to the Erie County Fair

For all of you  culture vultures, art hounds and foodies who turn up your noses at the idea of attending anything so plebian as the Erie County Fair, here’s what you’re missing by refusing to go out and rub elbows with the hoi polloi.


When you think of fair food, this is probably what comes to mind:

When you think of fair food, this is what probably comes to mind.

There’s plenty of that, but here’s what they’re lining up for:



I'm not sure if that's one item or two.

I’m not sure if that’s one item or two.

Well, it IS shark week.

Well, it IS shark week.

Bored with fried dough and funnel cakes?

I knew he’d get tired of eating at Subway sooner or later.

"New food"? It grows in the earth and never had a face - what a concept!

“New foods”? They grow in the earth and never had a face – what a concept!

Honestly, I'm less disturbed by the chocolate covered bacon than by the "fried bacon cinnamon roll," which sounds like it's trying to kill you in three different ways.

Honestly, I’m less disturbed by the chocolate covered bacon than by the “fried bacon cinnamon roll,” which sounds like it’s trying to kill you in three different ways. And wouldn’t “fried cookie dough” be a cookie?


I really, really wanted to hang around to see who would order the fried butter, and if they would actually eat it. Fortunately, they can wash it down with the fried Kool-Aid.

And for dessert ...

And for dessert …


Is there's anything they can't deep fry?

Is there anything they can’t deep fry?

Alright, that's just mean!

Alright, that’s just mean!

I can't imagine what this would even look like.

I can’t imagine what this would even look like …

deep fried Gummie bears

…but there are braver souls at the Fair than I.

When a taco just isn't enough of a challenge to your digestive tract.

When a taco just isn’t enough of a challenge to your digestive tract.

I was honestly disappointed to see that there wasn't really any ice cream in this.

I was honestly disappointed to see that there wasn’t really any ice cream in this.

Sorry, I just can't get over this.

Sorry, I just can’t get over this.

The tasty treat that turned the Pillsbury Dough Boy anorexic!

The tasty treat that turned the Pillsbury Dough Boy anorexic! (I assume it was the meth abuse than knocked out his teeth.)

What I wish I'd eaten instead of the tasteless Italian sausage and pepper sandwich I bought.

What I wish I’d eaten instead of the tasteless Italian sausage and pepper sandwich I bought – old habits die hard.

Of course, there’s more to do at the fair than just eat:




Do you think one in 100 passersby had any idea who these two were?

Do you think one in 100 passersby had any idea who these two were?

Sometimes a balloon isn't just a balloon.

Sometimes a balloon isn’t just a balloon.

Are they really trying to make fairgoers (in the grip, no doubt, of digestive shock) think that these garments are made from lion pelts?

Are they really trying to make fairgoers (in the grip, no doubt, of digestive shock) think that these garments are made from lion pelts?

nonfood freaks 4
nonfood freaks 5
nonfood freaks 6
nonfood turtle

But when all is said and done, there is, and e’er will be …









Absentia opens Buffalo Screams

If you’re going to be checking out the Buffalo Screams film festival—and if you’re a horror fan, why wouldn’t you?—don’t wait until the weekend. It opens today, and among the open night films is Absentia, one of the most unsettling horror films I’ve ever seen. The last time a movie got to me like this one did was when I first saw The Birds at age 8. The less you know the better, but if you don’t want to just take my word for it, check out the trailer.


D-BOX arrives in WNY

Filed under: News
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If you’re type who wants the ultimate technological experience every time you go to the movies, you can add D-BOX to IMAX, RealD, Dolby and the other list of terms you search for. You won’t have to do much looking—it’s only available at one local theater, the newly renovated Flix Theaters in Lancaster.
D-BOX motion code uses a motion generating system to send signals to theater seats synchronized to the action on the movie screen. In other words, your seat moves along with whatever you’re watching.
Hosting a demonstration of the newly installed seats, D-BOX representative David Amato downplayed comparisons to theme parks, even as two of the three sample clips he showed had effects mimicking a roller coaster. Admitting that the demo version wanted to show the extremes of what the system can do, he pointed out that D-BOX’s technicians were capable of programming movements as subtle as 20 milliliters—half the width of a human hair. Their programmers come primarily from musical backgrounds, and work with the filmmakers from the dailies in order to have enough time to make the thousands of movement cues needed by the time a film arrives in theaters. A single D-BOX film takes between 300 and 600 hours of labor. The goal is to add texture to sound and image as a way of more fully immersing the viewer in the film experience.
Bear in mind that the state of the art isn’t cheap: a D-BOX seat will cost you an extra $8 on top of the standard ticket charge, so if it’s a 3D film you can be looking at nearly $20 per seat.
For those of you who would rather watch movies at home, you can get always get a home D-BOX system installed—at $11,000 per seat. (That’s the equivalent of 550 $20 tickets.)
The D-BOX house is one of many upgrades being performed at Flix, which looks like it will be Western New York’s most state-of-the-art moviehouse when it is completed in the next month or so. Partially completed, the screens now open for business are as flawless as anything I’ve seen in Los Angeles or Toronto.

Vincent Gallo alert

Wanna start a fight? Walk up to three Buffalonians and say, “So, what do you guys think about Vincent Gallo?” But whether your reaction is “Love him,” “Hate him,” or “WTF is with that guy?!?” you have to hand this to the Buffalo-born actor: He has never gone Hollywood.

Last year he was named Best Actor at the prestigious Venice Film Festival for his wordless performance in Essential Killing. He plays a Taliban prisoner who is captured in Afghanistan and transported to a military base in Poland. Escaping his captors in a desolate are, he struggles to survive and make his way back home through a land about which he knows nothing.
Essential Killing was directed by the veteran filmmaker Jerzy Skolimowski, a one-time protégé of Roman Polanski who is undergoing a revival of interest with the DVD release of his 1970s films The Shout and Deep End. The Venice festival awarded him the Grand Jury Prize.
Essential Killing with have its local premiere at the Buffalo International Film Festival. There will be one screening only, at 9 pm on October 18th at the Screening Room in Williamsville. Seating is limited, so you might want to purchase tickets in advance at


West Memphis Three released from prison

Filed under: News

If you saw the 1996 documentary Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, you have never forgotten the story of how three Arkansas teenagers were unjustly accused and convicted of three horrifying murders simply because they were fans of heavy metal music. Today, after 18 years, all three were freed from jail, where they had been held under conditions that I still hate even to think about. You can read more about it here.

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