Buffalo Film Seminars eases into new home near South Campus
Professors notice attendance increase since move to Amherst Theatre
There aren’t many English classes that allow you to sit back, eat popcorn and watch movies on the big screen once a week.
Now – after UB’s film seminar moved from a theater downtown to one near South Campus – students only have to take the Stampede or walk for a few minutes to see famed films.
In November 1999, the city of Buffalo asked UB to organize a course to take place in the city-owned Market Arcade Film and Arts Centre to bring people from the suburbs to downtown. Since the spring of 2000, the Buffalo Film Seminars, a course taught by SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of English Diane Christian and SUNY Distinguished Professor Bruce Jackson, has been held every Tuesday at the Market Arcade Film and Arts Centre. This past summer, the City of Buffalo decided to sell the theater and the film seminar moved to the Amherst Theatre at 3500 Main St., across from UB’s South Campus.
Christian has noticed more people attending this semester’s seminar than in previous years at Market Arcade.
“The opportunity to see films in proper large format with an audience is the great boon,” Christian said.
She said the big screens are much better than the iPhones and iPads that most students use to watch movies.
Collin Diver, a junior English and Spanish major, thinks the new location of the film seminar is comfortable and accommodating. The theater is about a five-minute walk from the Main-Bailey Lot on South Campus.
The Amherst Theatre is also larger than the previous location.
Although Christine Proulx, a senior English and international studies major, never attended the film seminar at Market Arcade, she knew other people were upset that it had been moved from the historic theater.
Market Arcade opened on Dec. 18, 1987 and was the last operating movie theater in downtown Buffalo in 2013, according to Cinema Treasures. The Market Arcade Film & Arts Centre board of directors, the not-for-profit group that ran the theater on behalf of the city, closed the theater this past June.
AMC recently signed a letter of intent to become the new operator for the theater with an opening anticipated for summer 2016, according to The Buffalo News.
Proulx, like Diver, believes the new location is more convenient for students living on North and South Campus. Proulx decided to take the course because friends recommended it and it fulfilled her 400-level English requirement.
“I really enjoy the opportunity to take a class that introduces me to films I have never heard of or would have never watched outside of the class,” Proulx said.
Each semester, the Buffalo Film Seminar screens 14 or 15 films from the silent film period to the present and genres range from slapstick comedies to police procedural dramas.
Both Proulx and Diver said their favorite film they watched in the course was Red River, a 1948 Western drama centered on a cattle drive from Texas to Kansas.
Every Tuesday night, Proulx arrives at the theater about 15 minutes early to get popcorn, find a seat and take notes on the film.
After each film ends, Christian and Jackson lead an in-depth discussion about the elements of film such as directing, acting and cinematography.
“When you know what to look for and understand what the director was getting at, it makes it a lot more enjoyable experience overall,” Proulx said.
This course gave Proulx a different perspective on films. She plans on coming back in the spring just for the enjoyment of seeing the films and listening to the discussions.
“It's a nice touch to get to know the audience of a movie afterward instead of just seeing it, leaving and telling your girlfriend or boyfriend, ‘Yeah, that was great,’” Diver said.
For Diver, the seminar is a multi-faceted experience. Each film interrogates the viewers on certain issues. The foreign films also expose students to new cultures and modes interaction, he said.
Christian believes film is society’s most important cultural art form and the seminar offers students and the general public the opportunity to engage with complicated works of art.
“We’re tickled every week with the joy of that,” Christian said.
The Buffalo Film Seminar takes place Tuesday evenings from 7 p.m. to 9:40 p.m. The students in the class have free admission and the general public can buy tickets. Adults are $9.50, students are $7.50 and seniors are $7.00. Season tickets are available any time at a 15 percent reduction for the cost of remaining films.
This article has been updated. A previous version wrongly had quoted Christian was "ticked" when it should have said "tickled."