Back in December, this page noted with disappointment the threatened closing of the Market Arcade Film & Arts Centre, the city’s only downtown movie theater, due to financial problems.
The theater, at 639 Main St., met that fate last night. But the prospect that a better facility might rise from the ashes thanks to interest from developers is heartening. And it is the correct path for the showplace.
Private investment, not public funds, should be supporting the theater’s desperately needed upgrades. Mayor Byron W. Brown decided correctly that spending an estimated $60,000 per digital projector for each of the theater’s seven screens or investing further into the building was unwise.
The Market Arcade Film & Arts Centre is a part of the city’s Theater District, and provides an important educational outlet. But the prospect of spending $420,000 on projectors and much more than that to upgrade seating, concessions, restrooms and more is daunting for the city.
The city owns the Market Arcade building. It helped build the theater with the help of federal funding. The Market Arcade Film & Arts Centre opened in 1987 and has had a succession of operators.
Now the well of money to operate the place has run dry. Michael Schmand, treasurer of the Market Arcade Film & Arts Centre board of directors, the not-for-profit group that operates the theater, recently talked to The News about the need to pay vendors, low cash reserves and the business decision that had to be made.
Road Less Traveled Productions, a theater company based at the Market Arcade since 2006, will remain in the space for the time being. Also affected is Buffalo Film Seminars, a weekly University at Buffalo course open to the public. Professors for the seminars have announced plans to relocate to the Amherst Theatre in the fall.
The Market Arcade movie theater’s doors are closed, but like any good drama, there is hope for a comeback.
Four private operators interested in showing movies at the theater responded in March to the city’s request for proposals. They are due to submit more-formal proposals today. The city wants a buyer that would continue to operate a movie theater and retain Road Less Traveled Productions and Buffalo Film Seminars.
If any of the proposals turns out to be viable, rejuvenating a downtown staple while maintaining its educational and cultural aspects, then the change in operations will be a win for everyone. The Brown administration is intent on finding a developer to continue that legacy.
Buffalo is on the upswing, with waterfront improvements, cars returning to Main Street, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, IBM heading to the Key Center, outer harbor restoration plans and the RiverBend clean-energy hub.
There should be enough happening downtown for a modern, properly run movie house to make a go of it. Closing the doors on its past will give the Market Arcade theater a chance to open the doors to a comeback.