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Ex-cop, film industry figure unite to open movie theater on East Side

A retired police officer with a movie theater meets a film industry veteran.

The plot for a small-screen pilot?

Maybe another time. For now, it's the true story of two men bringing movies back to the big screen on the East Side.

Films geared toward African-American audiences will be shown in the Uptown Theater on Bailey Avenue, near East Amherst Street. The first films were shown Friday night. Complimentary tickets were distributed for the double-feature debut of "Four Brothers" and "Hustle & Flow."

The double feature runs continuously today, beginning at noon, with admission of $4.

The project is a collaboration between Ciro LaCorte, a retired Amherst police officer who bought the decrepit movie theater a couple of years ago, and Martin Sadoff, a Buffalo native with longtime ties to the film industry.

"I had no intention of buying that building," LaCorte said. He had been helping its elderly owner through a legal mess when the owner died; LaCorte didn't want to give it up.

Known by many names through the years, the theater had been an adult film house before other owners tried to make it a family-friendly theater in the 1990s. That didn't last long.

LaCorte wanted to open the theater for youngsters in the community -- in exchange for clean living on their part. He has established a nonprofit organization, the Uptown Theatre of Performing Arts, to further that mission.

"We allow them to come to the theater and sing and dance and perform . . . whatever talents they have," LaCorte said. Approximately 125 youth participate, he said.

Enter Sadoff, with a fondness for old movie houses and an enviable list of contacts in the movie industry. Currently a director of digital cinema technologies for Crest National, Sadoff was the 3-D supervisor on "Friday the 13th Part 3: 3D."

During a visit home in July, Sadoff was invited to meet the owners of a Bailey Avenue restaurant next to the theater. He also met LaCorte, who showed him around.

Sadoff said, "I said to him, 'What do you want to do?' He said, 'I want to run movies.' "

Movies with positive images and messages, LaCorte said.

"That's when it started," Sadoff said.

Still harboring a great love for his hometown, the West Coast transplant also wanted to do something for the community.

"It's really a try to turn the whole neighborhood around," Sadoff said. "Why shouldn't there be inner-city theaters?"

Utilizing his contacts, Sadoff found a projector in the Chicago area. Last year, he had attended the Pan African Film & Arts Festival in Los Angeles, and it turned out Sadoff's cousin was acquainted with its founder, Ayuko Babu.

When Sadoff sought films from the festival to show in Buffalo, he said Babu asked him why doesn't he run the whole festival here. That's more than 200 original works.

Sadoff also called on an acquaintance at Paramount Pictures -- once headed by Buffalo native Frank Mancuso Sr. -- to get prints of the movies, whose runs begin tonight.

"I'm just so happy to see this really happen," Sadoff said. "The fact that we are going on in digital sound . . . We wanted to do this right."

e-mail: jhabuda@buffnews.com

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