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Proposed Niagara Studio movie complex asks for more changes

The brick building that will be Niagara Studio
Architectural Resources
Buffalo Planning Board
A rendering of the proposed Niagara Studio at the corner of Niagara and West Ferry streets on Buffalo's West Side.

The planned Niagara Studio movie complex on Niagara Street in Buffalo moved closer to construction Monday, with more action in City Hall on a further modified plan.

With continuing technological changes in the movie and TV business, the $24 million plan is seeing some changes, while continuing with the goal to start shooting in the fall of next year.

The plan was before the Planning Board Monday for its piece of the city's tangled development process. That board postponed a decision for two weeks because another part of the project has to go before the Zoning Board of Appeals for variances in Buffalo's Green Code and, if approved, return to the Planning Board.

The big change is to shift to a large and two smaller studios.

"Added two additional sound stages to the project," said project sponsor Larry Quinn, "which will allow us to, number one, adapt to the new technology. The new technology in filmmaking is a video wall system that I would have trouble myself explaining, but it basically replaces the green screen approach and it's all video."

Architect Kevin Murrett said there is massive demand nationwide for more studio space like the planned Niagara Studio.

"Thus, the owner's willingness to advance the entire buildout of the project at this time, but at a slightly different configuration," Murrett said. "So instead of two 20,000-square-foot boxes, now you will find on the floor plan one 20,000-square-foot box and then two smaller 5,000. So for a total production area of 30,000 square feet."

The new plan also includes space on the site at Niagara and West Ferry for a backlot, which would allow scenes to be shot on site, rather than on location in the community.

"Buffalo has developed a tremendous reputation in the industry as a place you can do films," Quinn said. "So all those factors are getting us in this package, but I just worry that we could have bounced out if we didn't meet a certain requirement."

The entire complex is planned on an industrial brownfield, which needs to be cleaned, using state tax credits, leading to more landscaping and a paved-over space.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.