Varsity Theater reopens on Buffalo's East Side

Feb 13, 2016

First built in 1923 as a movie house, a theater on Buffalo's East Side is reopening with a little help from New York State, whose second-in-command suggests developments like these are the starting point for neighborhood revivals.

The Varsity Theater, on Bailey Avenue, has been reopened as a music and event venue. The state, through its Western New York Regional Economic Development Council, granted $150,000 to help the theater's purchaser, Ibrahim Cisse, complete renovations.

Cisse, a native of Ivory Coast, is the founder of the Bailey Avenue Business Association.

Among those welcoming the reopening of the theater was Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who told WBFO that the East Side figures in the governor's plans for Buffalo's overall economic redevelopment.

"Their turn is now," Hochul said. "I think the investment of Varsity Theater just proves that. You can have a real gem, restoring this landmark in the community that had a tremendous history, going back generations of families who used to love bringing their children there to see productions, see movies."

It's also the sort of redevelopment, Hochul stated, that triggers other new businesses and gradually rebuilds a neighborhood.

"I think it's a symbol. When I go to communities all around the state of New York, large and small, I'm surprised at how often it is the rebirth of a theater that people from their childhood now comes back to life," Hochul said. "It really inspires other people. Then you're going to get a coffee shops that are going to want to get closer, the little internet cafes and craft brewers. It all starts with something like a theater, and it all grows out from there."