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Editorial: It's showtime in Buffalo

Anyone who walked past 639 Main St. in downtown Buffalo Thursday could detect in the evening air the unmistakable and welcoming aroma of hot popcorn.

Glorious.

That smell had not wafted along that street in four years. It was back then that the old and aged Dipson movie theater closed, leaving fans no other choice than to seek out cinematic pleasures outside the downtown radius.

At first, it seemed there would be no downtown movie theater. But then AMC Theatres pledged to step in with reclining seats and state-of-the-art enjoyment. The ensuing cliffhanger between then and now lasted longer than anyone would have liked and, at varying points, fans began muttering about whether a new movie theater actually would come downtown. It has.

The nation’s largest theater chain opened an eight-screen production on Thursday. It comes with plush, heated recliners, nonconventional refreshment-stand goodies, online ticketing, and the latest in speaker and sound technology. Not to mention ticketless entry and reserved seating. Anyone entering this theater will be flying first class.

The movie theater’s presence is yet another indication of a revived downtown, adding nicely to the Irish Classical Theatre Company, Shea’s Performing Arts Center, 710 Main Theatre – too many pockets of entertainment to name – and loads of places to eat, from diners to fine dining.

The AMC theater adds to the mix of something to do for young and young-at-heart. From the Hostel Buffalo-Niagara and residents living in one of many transformed loft apartments to the couples driving in from all parts of the suburbs, downtown Buffalo is adding something for everyone. It will be up to movie theater staff to ensure everyone has a safe, good time.

Mayor Byron W. Brown had it right when he said that the impact is huge. Having “the largest movie theater company in the world invest in bringing an AMC movie theater to downtown Buffalo will certainly strengthen our downtown, our Theatre District, the downtown neighborhood and encourage additional investment interest in the City of Buffalo.”

It hasn’t been easy. Benchmark Group, the building’s developer, announced the AMC plan in September 2014. Four months earlier, the Market Arcade Theatre had closed, leaving those who live, work and play in the city wondering about the state of the building and the movie theater. Then when the announcement came that AMC was stepping in, moviegoers expected to see films there in the summer of 2016. It took longer.

Theater company executives changed midway through negotiations and – no surprise – there were concerns about adequate parking. Fortunately, the challenges were met. It didn’t come cheap.

Benchmark spent $5.5 million and AMC $3.5 million to remake the theater, building a new roof and facade as well as adding lighting improvements and new signage.

It was well worth the effort. This isn’t just a movie theater. It is another addition to the quality of life that will help to attract and retain the next generation of Buffalonians.

Somebody, pass the popcorn.

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