By Jordan M. Smith:
It’s nearing film festival season for the region (the Toronto International Film Fest kicks off on September 6th with the Buffalo International Film Fest to follow shortly after on September 14th) and as I recall the last year of film viewing in Buffalo, I can’t help but feel like Nickel City cinephiles are getting shafted.
If you live near downtown Buffalo, not only is your selection of theaters limited to the Market Arcade (located at 639 Main) or Regal Elmwood (located at 2001 Elmwood), both of which almost solely provide access to mainstream popcorn-munching fare, or the Dipson North Park theater (located 1428 Hertel), which is the only truly city bound theater playing indie and foreign features, but with only a single film playing each week, those looking for more adventurous cinema experiences are apt to travel up to the Dipson Amherst (3 screens at 3500 Main), all the way up to the Dipson Eastern Hills Mall (3 screens at 4545 Transit in Williamsville) or to the often forgotten about Screening Room (1 screen at 3131 Sheridan in Amherst) for retro screenings like their continuous Hitchcock series.
With only 7 screens devoted to non-Hollywood produced films within about a 50-mile radius, choices for most Buffalo film buffs are slim pickings. Not to mention the almost complete lack of theatrical documentaries playing in the area (with a few rare exceptions like Wim Wender’s Pina or the upcoming Sundance favorite Searching For Sugarman. It’s a honestly a bit bleak. Plus, as wonderful as it would be to see the new Woody Allen or Werner Herzog film here in Buffalo, it would certainly not be as comfortable as seeing the new comic book extravaganza at the Walden Galleria Regal theaters with their ultra comfortable, semi-reclining stadium seating. Would it really be asking too much for some upholstering upgrades in some of the smaller, more accessible Buffalo based theaters? I think not.
And what’s more, when looking at the film release schedule, if on them at all, Buffalo is continuously near the bottom of calendar lists for non-Hollywood releases. If you look back at the last few months in which some of the biggest indie titles of the year saw their release, there was almost always a month between most major cities and Buffalo’s release dates. Some examples include Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom (photo) which played to rave reviews at this year’s Cannes Film Fest (Released Nationally May 25, in Buffalo on June 22), Benh Zeitlin’s debut Sundance highlight Beasts of the Southern Wild (Released Nationally June 27, in Buffalo on July 20), and even this month’s funny, but big-hearted Celeste and Jesse Forever starring Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg (Released Nationally August 3, but finally arriving in Buffalonian theaters today).
Sure, it takes many indie releases some time to get some steam behind them before moving on to bigger and better (and more lucrative) cities, but these few examples are film fest approved with studio-backed releases. So, why are we constantly left waiting for films to finally make their way here after seeing weeks of press from exterior sources, if they even make their way here? Sadly, there has been so many great releases this year that never even made it to Buffalo. Are we really lacking the market, or are our current cinema providers just lacking the gall or merely the capacity to cater to our cinematic cravings? I honestly don’t know the answer, but I’d personally prefer not to drive to Toronto every time something interesting fails to make its way here.