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LACK OF FUNDS FOR ESCALATOR MAY SINK ART FILMS THEATER IN MARKET ARCADE

Talk about the ups and downs of the movie business.

A proposed venue for high-brow, low-budget art films in downtown Buffalo could be in jeopardy if the developer can't get funding for an escalator.

Rochester businessman William Coppard said this week that he had hoped to open a five-screen art movie house inside the newly renovated Market Arcade sometime this spring. It would be located next to the Market Arcade 8 Cinema, but would specialize in screenings of foreign and art films.

However, Coppard said his project had to be delayed because he has to install an escalator but lacks the $100,000 or so that it would cost do it.

City officials, who helped Coppard secure a $1 million, low-interest loan to start the project last fall, are hopeful they can assist him again.

"I'm cautiously, guardedly optimistic that we might be able to resolve the escalator situation," said Community Development Commissioner Daniel S. Bicz.

"But frankly, with all these budget cuts and changes at (the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development), we don't have a whole lot of resources," Bicz added.

Still, Bicz said he planned to meet with Coppard next week to discuss a new financial package.

Coppard already operates a similar venue in downtown Rochester, which has proved so successful he recently expanded from three to five screens there.

"There's no question in my mind that that success can be repeated in downtown Buffalo," Coppard said.

Bicz agreed.

"This could be the crowning piece (to the Market Arcade renovation project) and really complement the Breckenridge brewery and some of the other things we're trying to do at the Arcade," Bicz said.

Plans for the art movie house and the Colorado-based Breckenridge brew pub to be built inside the Market Arcade were announced by the administration last fall.

The Market Arcade, located on the 600 Block of Main Street, across from Shea's Buffalo Theater, has been closed for at least 25 years. Restoration efforts began 10 years ago, with about $8 million -- mostly federal funds -- going into the project.

Coppard said plans to install a brew pub adjacent to his theater caused him to alter his design plans.

"Originally, patrons were going to enter the theater through the Market Arcade," said Coppard. "Now everything has to fit in a vacant lot behind the facade on Main Street. So now there's no way to get all the theaters on the ground floor."

Four of the five screening rooms will have to be located on the second floor of the Market Arcade, he said, requiring the addition of an escalator that could raise construction costs by at least $100,000.

Christopher Dirr, city commerce director, said an escalator would be needed to handle traffic when large numbers of patrons enter or exit the theater. Often shows will let out at the same time, he said.

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