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State of Buffalo’s Persevering Film Industry

Author: Seth Tyler Black


The Return of an Industry: the Ever Present Stamp of Film in Buffalo

Unless you live outside of the city, or the know, Buffalo has consistently been making its mark in the film production world at least since 2014. It is not hard to spot the familiar tones of the Buffalo streets, abandoned industrial treasures, and stunning architecture and craftsmanship on the buildings. However, this phrase that I have heard over the past few years, Hollywood is coming to Buffalo, has really gotten old and annoying as I have aged within the film industry and seen the crew base and talent of this town grow and hold their ground amongst those who are used to rummaging through small towns and leaving them with nothing but some money, a thank you package, and a memory. We didn’t just make The Natural here. We are no longer that small town that large, and small, companies can step over because of their perceived experience based upon their base in a larger city. We are a film town, and we always have been.

The Vitascope Hall, the world’s first public exclusively film screening theatre, opened in a space within the Ellicott Square Building.

Buffalo, in fact, has a long lasting position in the film industry. The year, 1896. The booming port town of Buffalo was buzzing in anticipation of the new century. An exhibition of a new invention, the Vitascope, takes place at the Buffalo Public Library. Two entrepreneurial brothers, through their previous hometown connections with the Edison Manufacturing Company (yes, that Edison), bought one and opened a type of theatre that never existed before. The Vitascope Hall, the world’s first public exclusively film screening theatre, opened in a space within the Ellicott Square Building, Buffalo’s newest architectural marvel at the time. After the Mark Bros. opened Vitascope Hall, and several other nickelodeons [not mentioning their other entertainment venues], many of our numerous vaudeville houses started screening the moving picture, several hundred other film theatres opened throughout every neighborhood of Buffalo, and the new form of technology, entertainment, and recreation took the world employing numerous screen technicians and musicians to accompany the screenings.

Outside of the exhibition, outside of Shea, Mark, Basil, Joplin, and the many other theatre owners, another segment of the industry was taking hold in Buffalo. The distributors, small and big named, began building and taking up residence within Buffalo. Companies like Universal, Paramount, MGM, RKO, and many more niche film distributors, began printing their films, marketing materials, and shipping them out to all of the theatres [within a large region] from their Film Exchange buildings downtown. Some of these buildings are still sitting along Buffalo’s Film Row area on Pearl and Franklin behind Shea’s Buffalo Theater. With many job opportunities, and money flowing, within this booming industry in Buffalo, Buffalo’s spot in “Hollywood” had been stamped for well over a hundred years.

Film production is thriving in Buffalo.

Of course all of this falls into forgotten history as a city goes through suburban sprawl, unfortunate gentrification, and economic depression. However, when a city rises again, as Buffalo has been for well over the past decade, we have to recognize the spaces that Buffalo has held within its artistic core through the years. Film production is thriving in Buffalo. We have a crew base that is consistently employed, and within key positions, in creating content for the escapism needs of the world. We have businesses that have taken note by consistently renting furniture, props, and specialty items for these films. There are location owners and landlords that have opened their doors to filming in their various rooms and spaces. Catering restaurants, printers, hotels, etc. Businesses have opened in response to this to support the comeback industry over the past decade: Buffalo Expendables, Buffalo Camera, Buffalo Props, and WNY Grip & Lighting. As stated before, we are no longer the town of The Natural. No longer the town of The First Purge, The True Adventures of Wolfboy, Fichtner’s Cold Brook, A Quiet Place II, Marshall, Emelie, numerous television movies, or any of the other studio and independent productions that shot [and are shooting] here. More than the few scenes in Ninja Turtles, The Best Man Holiday, or Del Toro’s upcoming Nightmare Alley. Buffalo is a film town with an industry that is here to stay. It is in our city’s history and blood. We are not a small town that Hollywood can grant us the opportunity to come through. 

Buffalo is the persevering older child of industry and opportunity.

Buffalo is the persevering older child of industry and opportunity. We are an engrained film center. Our gears are just oiled after sitting for a few years. No longer the sitting tin man, we will continue making the city [and surrounding towns] money that they haven’t seen before in the modern days of a production industry. Strike the words “Hollywood is in Buffalo” from your rolodex lexicon of rotating conversation. Films are just happening in Buffalo. Period. The end. 

Written by BRo Guest Authors

BRo Guest Authors

It’s not unusual for authors to come and go. Guest authors range from collegiate interns to writers who will be contributing for a short stint of time. Guest authors might also have a series in mind. Authors are encouraged to submit their ideas to BRO (Buffalo Rising Online), upon which time we will work with the writer towards a productive end.

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