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Buffalo Place chief hails return of movie house to Theater District

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

The announcement of a new movie theater coming to downtown Buffalo next year has the leader of a local not-for-profit celebrating another step in a neighborhood that has made a dramatic turnaround over the past three decades.

It was announced by Buffalo mayor Byron Brown that Benchmark Group and AMC Theaters have entered into a long-term lease at 639 Main Street, the site of the former Market Arcade Film and Arts Centre. AMC's movie house is expected to open in the summer of 2018 with all-new facilities and concessions, bringing new life into an address that has been sitting empty since 2014.

"When the Market Arcade closed down you had to be a little bit concerned because, typically, in most cities and downtowns when a movie house closes up and moves out, very seldom if ever does a new movie house move back in," said Buffalo Place Inc. executive director Michael T. Schmand.

Like Mayor Brown, Schmand sees the presence of a downtown movie theater will add to the assets which make living downtown more enticing to those considering it. He also believes it would be a popular option for out-of-town visitors while in Buffalo.

The return of a movie house to the city's already busy Theater District is being welcomed as yet another step forward in the turnaround of that neighborhood. Schmand says back in the 1970s, the city was in serious danger of losing the crown jewel of that district, Shea's Performing Arts Center. The theater was spared and new theaters eventually came into the neighborhood. 

Schmand says three mayors deserve credit for Main Street's turnaround. 

"I think Jimmy Griffin, for saving Shea's. Tony Masiello coming in and coming up with a strategic plan called the Queen City Hub Plan for downtown Buffalo, and the present mayor, Byron Brown, taking that plan and implementing it," Schmand said. "If you take a look under the three mayors, and you've got to give credit to all three of them, downtown Buffalo has really turned around."

Many, though, contend downtown's previous decline was fueled by the closing of auto traffic to make way for the Metro Rail. Schmand credits the decision to reopen several blocks of Main Street to cars as a move that makes it possible to bring AMC Theater into the neighborhood.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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