by M. Faust - posted 6:36 pm, May 18, 2014
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
SUNY Distinguished Professor & James Agee Professor of American Culture