Activity is slowly picking up at the new AMC Theatre in downtown Buffalo two months after it opened – and before the bar even starts up.
But the theater still has some structural issues with its exterior facade that will require some repairs.
The Market Arcade 8 kicked off to great fanfare in mid-August – about two years after originally hoped – and traffic has been gradually increasing, said general manager Tony Ruggiero.
"We started off slowly, but it’s building each week," he said.
Parking has worked smoothly with spaces available in the nearby M&T Bank Corp. lot and the Augsberger Ramp, and there have been no issues with security. AMC Entertainment and developer Benchmark Group are working to promote the theater, whose movies will now be listed in the newspaper.
Officials say they are pleased with what they're seeing so far.
"Things are going well, slow at first," said Martin J. Dellebovi, executive vice president and director of real estate for Benchmark, the property's owner. "It takes a while to get the kinks out and get the word out."
The theater has had some issues. The AMC mobile app, for instance, kept displaying the new theater in Chicago for the first four weeks, but that has since been fixed.
And Benchmark finally got approval from the theater chain's corporate leadership to put up a new 16-foot "AMC" sign on the exterior of the building on Washington Street, directing people to enter on Main Street around the corner because there is no entrance on Washington. The new sign will be erected in the next two weeks, Dellebovi said.
"They really were concerned any identity there would draw people to Washington Street," he said, referring to AMC. "We will have it up soon."
And as workers were refurbishing the terra cotta façade, they found problems that need to be repaired. That's why there's still scaffolding on the Washington Street side of the building, and Dellebovi said officials will seek Buffalo Planning Board approval to rebuild certain features that existed before the work began.
"All in all, it’s been going well," Dellebovi said. "We're very happy with the development. We're thrilled it's finally done."
The opening marks the return of movies to the site for the first time since the former Dipson Theatre closed five years ago because the cost of converting it to digital was too high. That prompted the city – which owned the building for years – to issue a request-for-proposals four years ago for a new theater owner and operator, eventually bringing Benchmark and AMC to the scene.
It's also a return for Ruggiero, who previously closed down the former General Cinemas theater in the building 20 years ago. "It was a sad day 20 years ago when I closed the Market Arcade," he said. "I’m very happy to be back downtown."
And it's a coup for Benchmark. Dellebovi noted that, even with the attention Buffalo is now getting, "it's still a little bit of a tough sell to get national retailers interested."
Next year, AMC also plans to introduce "order-ahead" and "serve-to-seat" concessions prior to the start of the movie, using the mobile app. But it's the bar that's particularly unique, and has already attracted attention from customers. When it opens on Nov. 16, the Market Arcade cinema will be the first in the state with a liquor license that is not a full dine-in theater.
Ruggiero stressed that the bar will not be open to the non-moviegoing public. "It's a one or two-drink situation, not hang out all night, especially not at our prices," he said."