Coming Attractions / 2019 year in review
A North Park renovation, goodbye to Noir Essentials, and Widow’s Point premieres
The North Park’s lobby has been restored to its original 1920 condition.
Photo courtesy of North Park Theatre
The year 2019 will forever be remembered as the period in which the ever-likable John Krasinski was spotted posing for pictures with fans in, well, just about every town in Western New York. The star of The Office and the current Jack Ryan was here directing the sequel to A Quiet Place, his horror blockbuster from 2018. (Krasinski and wife Emily Blunt were even spotted at the downtown library.) The release of A Quiet Place 2 will undoubtedly be the major Buffalo film story of 2020. More on this in an upcoming Spree.
However, it’s still 2019. So that’s take a look at a few of the most unique, the most fun, the most fascinating Buffalo film stories of the past twelve months.
The North Park, reborn
The biggest and most important local cinema story of 2019 is surely the renovation of the historic North Park Theatre on Hertel Avenue. Here, North Park program director Ray Barker answered some questions about the project.
Describe the latest phase of restoration work.
The primary objective was an original restoration of the outer lobby ceiling to its original 1920 height. In mid-May, the “dropped” ceiling was demolished. We revealed the restoration work at a party on May 30 and returned to screenings with the Elton John biopic Rocket Man. Work on the exterior façade involved repairs to the corbels and caps that exist above the stained glass above the marquee.
How did it feel to see this long project come to an end?
I feel an enormous sense of gratitude and pride. Back in 2013–14, when the auditorium underwent a massive restoration, I felt we were saving an important piece of Buffalo’s history. The North Park is the crown jewel of Hertel Avenue. Yet the stakes were high; we were fighting for our very existence. This time around, we are confidently building on our past success.
How does this set the stage for the North Park’s future?
Next year will be a very special one for the North Park. In November, we will celebrate our centennial anniversary: 100 years on Hertel Avenue and continually in operation as a movie theater. Our recent restorations position us to continue entertaining Buffalo audiences for the next 100 years.
Widow’s Point premieres
Prolific Buffalo-based filmmaker Gregory Lamberson has long been known for films like Johnny Gruesome, and for his role as co-director of the Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival. Lamberson’s latest horror film, Widow’s Point, is his most high-profile entry yet. And in a very cool twist, the Craig Shaffer-starrer premiered at Buffalo Dreams in August.
“The premiere itself was special for me because it was a family affair,” Lamberson says. “My wife produced the movie and my daughter, Kaelin, had a big role in it. Cast and crew were there, and people who know me as a member of the Buffalo film community. And Craig Sheffer came to support the film, which meant a lot to me. The reaction was fantastic.”
Lamberson grew up in Fredonia, and much of Widow’s Point was shot at the Dunkirk Lighthouse. That made a recent screening at the Fredonia Opera House especially memorable.
“The screening, which was held on September 13, was a fundraiser for both the lighthouse and the Fredonia Opera House,” Lamberson says. “Two hundred fifty people attended — the town really turned out. I arrived at the opera house forty minutes before showtime, and there was already a crowd. It was a gratifying experience.”
Noir Essentials comes to a close
One of the most welcome additions to the local screening lineup in recent years was Alex Weinstein’s Noir Essentials. Held at the Dipson Eastern Hills Cinema, Essentials brought noir classics like Gilda to the big screen, as well as entire seasons centered on Orson Welles and Joel and Ethan Coen. As Weinstein explains, “It meant a lot to let those films be seen on the big screen—and to have our audience discover them with fresh eyes.”
Weinstein decided that its most recent season, titled “Departures,” would be its last. The final selection was Frank Borzage’s Moonrise on July 10.
“I think I knew from the start of the fourth season that it would be the last one,” Weinstein says. “It was such a fun project, and I remain extremely grateful for all the support we received, but growth was beginning to slow. Sometimes, to keep a good thing, you need to walk away.”
Noir fans hoping for a return will be pleased to hear that Weinstein believes the series could continue at some point. “I’d like to do some more screenings,” he says. “But I would probably do it as another series. One thing I wish we explored was the grittier neo-noir of the sixties and seventies. Friends of Eddie Coyle-type stuff. So, maybe I’ll do something like that.”