Via the Niagara Gazette

Night & Day — When the earliest motion pictures were shown, in newly built “cinema auditoriums” and repurposed vaudeville houses, folks on the Niagara Frontier were quick to jump on the bandwagon.

As silent films transitioned to sound, scores of downtown and neighborhood theaters in both Niagara Falls and Buffalo were built to satisfy the demand for movies. A lot of those old motion picture palaces are gone, but the region still maintains its love affair with cinema. Ever-changing ways of watching films at home has caused this question to be asked: Will movie theaters survive?

If you judge by how many films open every weekend, these brick and mortar showplaces may actually still be around years from now. Truth be told, no one really knows. Even in the offices at the major studios in Hollywood, the production chiefs don’t have the answer.

For example, in our area on Friday, April 11, eight new features debuted. This is great fun for a critic, but it’s still difficult to review everything by opening day. Here in “Night & Day,” I was able to write about four of the movies. On WECK radio that morning I talked about the six of the eight that I had seen. Two of the films were not screened in advance for critics.

The bottom line? Movies are still being shown the traditional way, and one of the best ways to see new films is at a festival, which allows for the camaraderie of other movie lovers enjoying morning to night screenings

The metro area has three large-scale film festivals, two with international in their name. There’s the Buffalo Niagara International Film Festival (BNFF), the Buffalo International Film Festival (BIFF), and the Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival, which is one of the most interesting and best-run genre-specific movie marathons in the United States. All three festivals encourage submissions by local filmmakers. The Buffalo Dreams team has found its niche: horror, fantasy, and science-fiction, and has scored well with it.

Both BNFF, run in the spring, and BIFF, run in the autumn, program similar movies, including multiple-genre, fictional and documentary works. Should these two competitors merge? Probably. It makes sense that at some point in the future, their respective executive directors should have a meeting with each other.

Right now, it’s BNFF’s time to showcase its offerings. The festival runs today through May 3, with more than 100 features and shorts unreeling at the Market Arcade Film & Arts Center at 639 Main St. in downtown Buffalo.

Attending a film festival is always an enjoyable experience, especially if you’re willing to take chances with what you want to see. You will always be surprised.

A number of the documentaries interest me, including, “Tough Ain’t Enough: Conversations With Al Ruddy” by Gregory J. Emelia and Lee Anthony Smith, which is about Albert S. Ruddy, the famed producer of such celebrated movies as “The Godfather.” (7 p.m. Sunday).

There’s also “Chew On This: Dangers Of The American Diet Exposed” by Gary Null, which takes a serious look at factory farming and the genetic engineering of crops and the role they play in the health of Americans. (11:30 a.m. Sunday).

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