Manteo’s iconic Pioneer Theater has been sold

By on February 16, 2023

New owners to retain the name, honor the legacy

The new owners plan to keep the Pioneer Theater name.

The iconic Pioneer Theater in Manteo officially is under new ownership after it was purchased on Feb. 14 for $500,000 by what represents a partnership between two local families, the Basnights and the Hatchells.

The deal follows then-owner Buddy Creef’s December announcement that the historic theater, with more than a century of service to the community, was closing.

In a Voice interview, Michael Basnight, a representative for the buyers, confirmed the purchase, said that the name will remain the Pioneer Theater, and explained that the site will pay homage to the Creef family and theater with a museum-like feel.

“What else would you call it if you are truly trying to preserve it and utilize all the good things that it has given to the community throughout the years, which has not just been movies but so many other resources,” said Basnight. “We will be preserving it and all the things we’ve loved about it for 105 years and that starts with the name. It will forever be the Pioneer Theater.”

Basnight was not ready to talk about specific plans for the theater immediately, but he said that more information would be released in the coming days.

Creef told the Voice that closing the theater was not an easy decision.

“For the past twenty years, the theater never made money. We would mostly break-even, make a little money here, lose a little money there,” he said. “I ran the theater the way my dad did. He kept it open for family tradition, community tradition.”

Creef said that in the past few years, the theater was losing about $50,000 annually. He attributed those losses to a number of factors, including the way the film business has changed, shifts in entertainment options, and today’s hectic schedule. All that was occurring before the pandemic, but really snowballed after that, he added.

Creef indicated that a number of potential buyers emerged after his closing announcement, but he compared selling the theater to selling “a litter of puppies. If you’re any kind of person with heart, sentimentality and love for the community, you care about where things go.”

According to Creef, the Basnights and Hatchells, who have a longstanding relationship with the Creef family, reached out to him and he knew they were the right people to take it over.

“I feel very positive and very happy with the direction that this project is going. I’m happy as hell,” Creef declared. “Continuing it as we did it is no longer viable…I’m glad that we found somebody with local ties and local roots that is interested in carrying on and preserving the tradition of what we have done while always honoring the theater and our family.”

SEE ALSO: ‘Our families are excited to carry that torch’


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  • WindyBill

    A Hearty Thanks! to the new owners! I have seen movies and excellent small scale live performances there and the Pioneer works great for both! Here’s hoping for their success!!.

    Thursday, Feb 16 @ 4:47 pm
  • Talmadge Ragan

    Many of us old timers from The Colony have such great memories of seeing a movie at the end of a long week. Keeping the Pioneer active is wonderful!

    Thursday, Feb 16 @ 5:10 pm
  • Missy

    Congratulations to Jamie, Michael AND Buddy! I loved the analogy… a litter of puppies! LOL! You found a good home for that favorite puppy Buddy! Can’t wait for the Grand Opening!

    Thursday, Feb 16 @ 5:20 pm
  • Ray

    Thank you for keeping it local.

    Friday, Feb 17 @ 6:55 am
  • outis

    Alright! Some really good news for a change! Can’t wait to see the Pioneer opened up again. It has been very sad to drive past the Pioneer Theater sign, on Hwy.64, and not see what movie was playing, but just a blank sign board. This news makes me smile, and brings a tear or two of happiness to my eyes.

    Friday, Feb 17 @ 8:01 am
  • Stephanie

    So so happy to see such a vital part of all of us locals memories be carried on by other locals and not some random tourists that know nothing about it. ❤️❤️

    Friday, Feb 17 @ 8:10 am
  • Sharon

    Star Trek marathon, please.

    Friday, Feb 17 @ 2:12 pm
  • Smart Ass

    That’s great news!

    Sunday, Feb 19 @ 9:42 pm