It looks as though the Pioneer Theater in downtown Manteo will live another day. The theater on Budleigh Street has been a part of Outer Banks life since 1918 when George W. Creef first opened the doors to the then new world of motion pictures.
Buddy Creef, the great grandson of George is the owner today. As far as anyone can determine the Pioneer is the oldest theater in the United States continuously owned by the same family.
What put it in danger or closing was the projector went out. And the repair or replacement cost was a minimum of $10,000. Coming off a year of closures because of COVID19 and operating at restricted seating, the money just wasn’t there.
So Buddy put the word out on a Gofundme page.
The public responded, donating over $17,000 in a little over a week.
Here is a sampling of what the people wrote as they were donating.
“What a treasure . Can’t wait for the re-opening to take our grandkids.”
“I love this little theater…the heart of Manteo.”
Why the Pioneer is so loved
What has made the Pioneer Theater so important to so many people is more than how long it’s been there or that the Creef family has owned it the whole time.
Buying a ticket at the old-fashioned ticket booth is the first hint that this is going to be a step back in time. The lobby is small and invariably filled with the scent of freshly popped popcorn. That’s right, the Pioneer Theater pops its own popcorn…right out there for everyone to see.
Ticket prices are about $2.00 less than other theaters and the candy is reasonably priced.
In short, it feels a little bit like a step back in time.
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