After more than a century, the curtain comes down at the Pioneer Theater

By on December 13, 2022

Pioneer Theater

This announcement about the permanent closing of the Pioneer Theatre in Manteo was posted on the theater website on the evening of Dec. 13.

Here is the statement from the Creef family.

After much discussion, thought and consideration, it is with a great deal of sadness, we, as the Creef family, have had to make the extremely difficult decision of not reopening The Pioneer Theater.

This decision has not been made lightly and has been something that has been coming for a long period of time, as we have watched decreasing attendance, increasing expenses, and changes in the theater industry over the years, all of which have contributed to ever increasing yearly financial losses.

We feel greatly honored and proud to have been an integral part of such a wonderful community over the last 104 years, serving and providing entertainment and “babysitting” services to many generations.

We would like to thank all of you who have supported us so much over all of these years, especially those who have been our core faithful and loyal customers week after week, year after year. We have enjoyed watching so many of you grow up, and then bring the next generation and introduce them to our popcorn world.

We consider all of you a part of our family and Love you very much. Hopefully, all of you, as part of our popcorn family, understand how hard this decision was for us and respect how much this saddens us.

With Love and Sadness,

Tim, Lizann, and Buddy Creef

SEE ALSO: From a grateful community, an ode to the Pioneer


  • Mac

    Sad news, indeed… For many years the Pioneer Theatre was a regular entertainment destination for our family and friends during extended visits from Florida. Good memories include not just films we enjoyed but live stage performances of the Lost Colony story.

    Tuesday, Dec 13 @ 8:51 pm
  • Ray

    A sad ending to a happy chapter. That’s a wrap. 🙁

    Wednesday, Dec 14 @ 6:41 am
  • KDH back seat reviewer

    It would utterly amazing if someone would transform (financial resources and acumen) that theatre into a live music venue. Oh, a sailor can only dream.

    Wednesday, Dec 14 @ 9:46 am
  • OBX Resident

    Sorry to see the loss of this iconic theater. First, thank you to the Creef Family for the Pioneer Theater. It is a special place in Manteo and the Outer Banks. I believe that the closing will be temporary and in the end it will be a positive for the development for the Pioneer. Since HA Creef’s passing the times have changed in the industry, and the theater has not been creatively steered to navigate these changes with new programs and revenue sources. These revenue opportunities could come from concerts, plays, vintage movies, or weekly surf movies in the summer. Additionally, the building is in need of repairs and if the family cannot make the repairs, then hopefully a new owner will have that opportunity. The exterior of the structure is grossly in need of attention. The brick mortar is receding, and falling out of the joints, and rot and decay plague the façade. Aesthetically, the beautiful exterior wall mural has faded adding to the gloom of the structure. The closing is an excellent opportunity for the Dare County Art’s Council or another similar group to purchase the Pioneer using fundraising, public grants, and other sources. This new group would have an energy and focus that has been lacking in recent years. Thanks will always be bestowed on HA Creef and his family for the vision of the theater, but the closing presents a unique opportunity for one to reinvigorate the space, and restore the structure. In closing, let’s just keep the curtain closed on SAGA buying it and bestowing the same fate on it as the Crocker Car Museum in NH or converting it to condo’s.

    Wednesday, Dec 14 @ 10:57 am
  • Linda

    We sad to hear this. When we lived in Nags Head cove we used to take our boat over to see movies. A fixture of the OBX as many have fallen by the wayside. We have since moved off the banks and ironically were just talking yesterday how the little town we now live outside of has a small family operated theater. The old saying Manteo to Murphy applies to us well as we were married on the Manteo waterfront almost 30 years go and now have retired to the mountains. I miss the outer banks dearly, but I know the place that I loved and lived for over 20 years has changed so much, I would barely recognize it. Thank you to the Creef family for making our time on the island a memorable one.

    Wednesday, Dec 14 @ 11:36 am
  • Travis

    For what it’s worth, when the bowling alley was on a path to shut down it was saved (don’t remember how that unfolded exactly). Hopefully the Pioneer will encounter similar good fortune.

    Wednesday, Dec 14 @ 1:26 pm
  • I'll miss going here

    If it does get bought, please get a different projector. The white colors have a blue hue to them, and you can’t even make out anything if it’s black. The original projector was good, the new one not so much.

    Wednesday, Dec 14 @ 4:40 pm
  • GSurf123

    Another Outer Banks legend falls. We are running out of them at an ever increasing clip. For those visitors who love chain stores and restaurants they will get a Jersey Mike’s in trade for the Pioneer. It really is a shame to see The towns of Dare County turned into Anytown USA’s. It’s still hard to fathom going on vacation only to utilize chain establishments.

    Wednesday, Dec 14 @ 5:37 pm
  • Peter Hummers


    Thursday, Dec 15 @ 7:38 am
  • The Austin’s in Wanchese

    Many a fun memories by many generations. We thank you for your years of wonderful activities (school, clubs and church viewings) and movies. Your theater will be greatly missed. As will your welcoming smiles.

    Thursday, Dec 15 @ 9:27 am
  • olin hardy

    Sad news and I hope someone will continue on with it!

    Friday, Dec 16 @ 7:19 am
  • Missy

    My first date with my husband of almost 45 years took place in the Pioneer Theater on a Saturday night. The next day Mr. Ben Creef who was my Sunday school teacher told me he saw me the night before. I told him I saw him too. He grinned a big grin and said, “You didn’t see me when I saw YOU!” I blushed right up to my hairline and beyond. We are sorry to see a big part of our island and our community close. Thanks for the memories Creef family! We had a blast!

    Saturday, Dec 17 @ 3:58 pm
  • Glenn Alexander

    The pioneer Theater was one of my favorite Friday night or sometime sat night place to be when I was growing up as a teenager in Manteo. I would walk from my home on airport rd to the theater about 21/2 mile walk before there were any bike or walking paths . Mr Ben was at the ticket booth and would say to me you much of pick up a lot of pop bottles and sold them at Mr wise ‘s store to be at this movie tonight. And I would say yes sir . What great memories in that theater including my first date at 14 and my birthday I would get in free.Thank you very much creef family. You really have help me make great memories that I’ll never forget.

    Tuesday, Dec 20 @ 8:36 pm