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North Park Theatre to reopen March 7

Hertel Avenue is about to get its crown jewel back.

The North Park Theatre announced Monday that its much-awaited reopening will take place March 7.

And when it does, longtime observers can’t help but point out, this will not be your father’s North Park Theatre. Some significant changes are in the offing for the North Buffalo movie house, apart from the extensive renovation that some insiders are putting in the neighborhood of $250,000:

• The theater will no longer have just one evening showing a day, as was so often the case in when it was run by Dipson Theatres. In most cases, where possible, two matinees and two evening showings will be held, according to the theater’s managing director, Ray Barker.

The increased number of showings opens the theater up for different films showing at different times of the day on its large, digitally projected screen.

“We’re trying to be innovative and give cinemagoers some choice,” Barker said. “It’s our view that not having matinees put us at a competitive disadvantage.”

• The theater will change the old policy of keeping single premium name movies around at the North Park for as long as possible. Barker said that right from the beginning, there will be much faster turnover. Four films already are booked in the theater’s first five weeks.

The first film to be shown March 7 will be the romantic comedy “Girl on a Bicycle,” which had previous showings in the Screening Room Cinema Cafe in Amherst.

Bookings after that:

• March 14 – “Better Living Through Chemistry.” A dark comedy starring Olivia Wilde, Jane Fonda, Sam Rockwell, Michelle Monaghan and Ray Liotta. Rockwell plays an uptight suburban pharmacist introduced to the wild side by Wilde.

• March 21 – “On My Way,” starring Catherine Deneuve as a woman who goes on the road with her grandson. The film is scheduled for a two-week run.

• April 4 – “Child’s Pose,” the much-praised Romanian film that won the Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival.

The North Park went dark last June after Dipson announced that it would no longer operate it. However, the building’s current owner, attorney Thomas J. Eoannou, announced in May that he planned to do some restoration work on the theater before reopening it in partnership with Left Bank restaurant owner Michael G. Christiano.

Barker’s pledge to increase “innovation” in the higher turnover of North Park movies will include, he hopes, some of the films he recently saw at the Sundance Film Festival.

The films scheduled so far aren’t as prestigious as those Dipson usually shows from major distributors. But the North Park is opening the theater up to many distributors whose movies are far from frequent in Western New York.

What it amounts to, combined with all of the Dipson Theatres, is that moviegoers with a greater sense of cinematic adventure will be rewarded in ways they haven’t been locally in a long time.

As far as the concession stand, the new placement to where it was in the 1950s – right after patrons walk through the inside doors – will mean that moviegoers will no longer be disturbed by popcorn runs in the middle of movies. (The old popcorn bags were stored behind the screen, meaning that employees had to retrieve them during films.)

“We will have some homemade desserts from time to time,” Barker said. Otherwise, patrons who loved the old North Park’s popcorn will still love it. It’s being made the same way.

Prices will be the same as they were when Dipson ran the theater.

The theater also is in talks with local schools to make greater use of the North Park as a resource for local filmmakers, but Barker said he is leery of making too many commitments before seeing how things work out.