Independent Film Company Looking To Shoot A Movie Based On The Life Of Justice Thurgood Marshall Needs A Courthouse To Make The Project A Reality

Schumer Urges Federal GSA To Grant Film Crew Permission To Use Dillon Courthouse; Filming Would Bring Economic Benefits To Area Restaurants, Hotels, Businesses And Potentially Help The Currently Vacant Courthouse Attract A New Owner

Schumer: Buffalo’s Dillon Courthouse Is The “Natural” Choice, And Would Perfectly Capture The Setting That Was The Backdrop For Marshall’s Transformative Legal Career

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the federal General Services Administration (GSA) to green light the filming of a movie based on the life of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall at the Dillon Courthouse in Buffalo, NY. Schumer explained that an independent film company has expressed interest in using the historic Dillon Courthouse as the backdrop for its movie. However, it first needs the federal approval from the GSA to use the vacant courthouse.  

Schumer cited the fact that this project would help to shine a spotlight on Western New York, and the historic Courthouse, and that could help attract interest in the facility by a new owner. In addition, the project would bring numerous economic benefits and prestige to Western New York, as crews and visitors will have the opportunity to explore the restaurants, hotels and many other businesses Buffalo has to offer. Schumer also cited the fact that Buffalo has been a prime location for a number of films, including a baseball classic, The Natural, and most recently, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2. For these reasons, Schumer said Buffalo is the “natural” choice for this movie, and urged the GSA to quickly provide approval so the filming can get underway.

“The Dillon Courthouse sits on prime real estate, in the center of the City of Buffalo, which is seeing unprecedented growth and development – and we need to let this historic site serve as a hub for unique projects, economic opportunities and jobs, even during the time it sits vacant. Thurgood Marshall was a giant in American legal history and the Dillon Courthouse would be a perfect stage upon which to set a movie about his transformative legal career, which was a battering ram for equality. It would also bring even greater prestige to Buffalo and incredible economic benefits to area businesses,” saidSchumer. “Filming a movie like this brings lots of energy and economic activity, and it will also highlight Buffalo’s emerging role as a player in the film industry.”

Schumer said the film company has indicated through the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission that the shoot would take place in May of 2016 and over the course of 26 days, 12 of which would be shot in the courthouse. According to the Film Commission, the remainder of the film shoots would take place at locations in and around Buffalo, increasing opportunities for local businesses and attractions throughout the Buffalo region. Schumer also said the film company intends to hire local labor to work on the crew. Schumer said this would not only provide a temporary boost in jobs but also bring economic benefits to area hotels, restaurants and businesses. Finally, the film would feature the magnificent, historic architecture of Buffalo, NY. Schumer said this could draw positive attention to the Dillon Courthouse, particularly at a time when the search is still ongoing when it comes to attracting a developer; the building became vacant in 2011.

“Marshall was a heroic figure – a man who literally risked his life for many years fighting against oppressive legal structures that denied black people their full rights as Americans – and he was one of our nation’s greatest legal minds, as well. His law work first laid the foundation for the assault on segregation, and then he delivered the coup de grace with his history-changing Brown v. Board of Educationcase that forever changed our nation for the better. I would be so proud if a movie on his life was filmed here in Buffalo,” saidSchumer.

Schumer said the Dillon Courthouse’s historic appearance and current vacancy mean it would not only provide an appropriate location for the film, but also make it relatively easy to open the building to this shoot. The unique pentagonal, 7-story, 183,000 square foot building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  It sits on Niagara Square, the hub of Buffalo’s Joseph Ellicott designed radial street grid, which is also home to Buffalo City Hall, Statler Towers, the Mahoney State Office Building and the new Jackson Federal Courthouse.

A copy of Schumer’s letter to GSA appears below:

Dear Regional Administrator Pease,

I write today to request your assistance in securing the Dillon Courthouse in Buffalo, NY for the filming of a movie based on the life of Justice Thurgood Marshall. The Dillon Courthouse, which is currently vacant, is a natural spot to film this movie, as it perfectly captures the courthouse setting that was the backdrop to Marshall’s transformative legal career. 

Buffalo has been a prime location for a number of films, including a baseball classic, The Natural, and most recently, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2. The Dillon Courthouse contains the original lobby and historic courtrooms, and is currently vacant. I am told that utilities and minimal security staff are in place, which should make it relatively easy to open the building to this shoot.

The film company has indicated that the shoot would take place over 26 days and that they would hire local labor to work on the crew. As with any production, there are also economic benefits to local hotels, restaurants, and businesses. The film would also feature the magnificent, historic architecture of Buffalo, NY, and draw positive attention to the Dillon Courthouse, which has yet to attract a developer since becoming vacant in 2011.

I hope that you will consider this request, and allow the shoot to utilize this otherwise empty building for a reasonable price. The film company is scouting other locations, but the Dillon Courthouse is certainly the most appropriate place, and the benefit to the Western New York community is invaluable.



Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator



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