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The former AMC Como 8 Theatres at Cheektowaga's Appletree Business Park will come back to life next month offering a fresh combination of new ownership, discount movies and less expensive concessions.

The AppleTree 6 Theatres will make its debut on Feb. 18 as an independently run movie house, operated by two long-time AMC managers who see a lot of promise in their new venture. Gary Haak, president of newly formed JGM Entertainment, said when the Como 8's screens went dark in September, it left that area without a second-run cinema.

"We think this place has a lot of life in it. It's the only discount house to the south of Buffalo, so we can draw from a wide audience," Haak said.

The AppleTree 6 will be one of just two discount movie houses in the Buffalo market, the other is North Buffalo's Super Saver Cinema. The reopened theater will also help fill any movie gap created by the December closing of the eight-screen General Cinema complex at Cheektowaga's Thruway Plaza.

Haak, who managed the Como 8 for AMC from 1975 through 1986, is teaming with Jim Maisano, who ran the complex from 1990 through its fall closing.

"Between the two of us we have 20 years experience running this facility and over 50 years in the theater business working for AMC. We feel we're really in a great position to make this work," he added.

AMC shuttered the Como 8 four months ago as part of a corporate strategy to get out of the second-run movie business, while reducing its stable of "small" theaters. The company targeted some 450 of its eight to 16 screen complexes for closing so it can concentrate on development and operation of so-called "megaplex" theaters offering movies on as many as 25 screens.

Haak said attendence figures at the Cheektowaga theater were never an issue for AMC.

"Even near the end, when they were paying less attention to what movies they were booking at the Como, movie-goers were still coming in pretty good numbers. If we can maintain similar counts, we're in a great position to build the audience," Haak said.

In addition to $2 screenings of second-run films -- movies which have come off the screens of first-run houses, but not yet entered the realm of video -- the AppleTree 6 will offer tasty deals on concessions. For example: small servings of soda and popcorn will be priced at $1.25, compared to the $2.09 AMC had formerly charged.

"If you go to a first-run theater, you'll end up paying at least $10.50 for the ticket and the smallest drink and popcorn; at AppleTree 6, you can get all that for $6.50," Haak said.

Ciminelli Development Co., which manages the Appletree Business Park, is upbeat about the return of movie-goers to the one-time retail center-turned office park, even though they didn't expect to sign a theater tenant.

"We weren't marketing the space as a theater," said Jim Dentinger, Ciminelli's vice president for leasing. "We expected to redevelop the space for business tenants, then out-of-the-blue these two quality theater managers walked in. It's a nice outcome."

Ciminelli will, however, be redeveloping a portion of what had been 27,000 square feet of theater complex into office use, as the new owners will be operating a six-screen house, not the eight-screens run by AMC.

With opening night less than three weeks away, the new theater operators are hurrying to complete a number of physical improvements to the center. Movie-goers will be greeted by refurbished ticket and concessions stands, a fresh color scheme and new carpeting throughout the building.

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