‘Our families are excited to carry that torch’

By on February 17, 2023

New Pioneer owners to showcase movies, music and history

The projector will keep rolling at the Pioneer Theater in Manteo, playing a variety of matinee and night shows, along with showcasing an assortment of other forms of entertainment that have been a part of the theater’s history for the past century, according to Michael Basnight, new co-owner and managing partner for the project.

On Feb. 14, the Creef family sold the iconic theater for $500,000 to a partnership between two local families, the Basnights and the Hatchell. In a Voice interview, Michael Basnight discussed his plans for the facility.

“There’ve been so many immeasurable experiences that have happened at the Pioneer Theater over the years. The Creef family has made sure that it gave us so many opportunities to get to the cinema,” said Basnight. “But if you think back though their history, they’ve had movies there. They’ve had music events there. They’ve had stand up shows there. They’ve had drama theater and plays where they worked with the Lost Colony and the local schools—we want to honor all of that.”

“Think a matinee movie for the community kids, but at the end of the movie, a quick transition over to something like a music venue,” he added.

The theater will also be open to the public as a working museum that will give viewers a cultural and historical perspective on the theater, including relics and photos from highlights of its history, like first showings of films, Andy Griffith’s movie premier and some of the theater’s old movie projectors and posters. It will also screen classic films that the Pioneer showed back in the 30’s—all the way up to the 90’s.

“Think about all the wonderful movies that we’ve all enjoyed. A lot of folks today don’t have that experience,” Basnight noted, asserting that the yearning for the type of experience the Pioneer provides is actually stronger now than ever. He noted that he and his family members are committed to preserving the theater and all its splendor, as well as the historic preservation of downtown Manteo, working in coordination with the Town and Main Street Manteo efforts.

Basnight says that this is a full circle moment for him. His grandmother, Mabel Basnight, was involved in the founding and operation of the Lost Colony, and his aunt Lebame Houston wrote and directed the play Elizabeth R which aired primarily at The Pioneer Theater. His favorite childhood memories were walking to downtown Manteo with his classmates to watch movies and eat popcorn at the Pioneer, and now he wants to preserve that for his two daughters and future generations.

“Just know that this is coming from a place of respect and passion for Manteo, for our community, and for our history. I understand the weight of the legacy and carrying on that legacy that the Creef family has held for all these years. And our families are excited to carry that torch.”

One way to preserve that legacy has already been decided on. The new owners will continue to serve the Pioneer’s particular brand of irresistible popcorn.

“Like Buddy says,” Basnight explained, “the secret ingredient to the popcorn is love.”

SEE ALSO: Manteo’s iconic Pioneer Theater has been sold




Notice of Public Auction

The public will take notice that the Dare County Tourism Board, at its meeting of October 20, 2022, adopted Resolution 2022-5 authorizing the sale of surplus personal property by public auction.

Saturday, April 1, 2023.

6708 S. Croatan Highway

Nags Head, NC 27959

10am: Back of the House Auction – Complete Commercial Kitchen

Partial List: True refrigerators and coolers, Hatco drawer warmers, Hobart mixer, Vulcan, 6 & 10 burner gas ovens/stoves, Vulcan 2 basket gas fryer, Vulcan 2-door oven, stainless prep tables, DCS 6 burner LPAS range & oven, Hobart dishwasher, pots & pans & more.

2pm: Front of the House Auction – Selling Everything in the Building + Architectural Salvage by room

Partial List: Antique ships wheel chandelier, Nautical & pirate decor, sword & pistol displays, polyword tables & chairs, ship models, nautical lanterns, art, commercial bar equipment, tables and chairs, NC decoys, fish mounts, signal cannon, architectural salvage, Several bars, pirate bar & more.

Preview 3/31: 11 AM – 5 PM & Auction Day starting @ 9am
Online Absentee Bidding Catalog Closes: 3/31 @ 8pm
Catalog + Thousands of photos @ SSAOBX.HIBID.COM
Island Auction Co. (252)489-5513 – Jason P. Humphries, Auctioneer NCAL #8423
Visa / MC / Cash / Good Check – NC Sales Tax, 15% Buyers Premium


  • Freenusa

    Kudos to the Basnight & Hatchell families!! The vision for the Duke of Dare and Pioneer Theater died with H.A., who my kids referred to as Ha Creef😂Thankfully it didn’t take as long to sell the Pioneer.

    Friday, Feb 17 @ 9:06 pm
  • Liz

    This great! I was hoping there would be thought of showing old classic movies. Even, gasp, black and white ones! A couple of years ago the Pioneer showed The Wizard of Oz. That was a chance to watch a movie that most of us have only seen on the small screen. Also, that other theater up the beach showed It’s a Wonderful Life. Who has ever seen that one the big screen? I’m hoping the Pioneer will follow through with this idea. There are so many of these classics to be found. And thank you a thousand times to the Basnights and Hatchells for saving the Pioneer.

    Saturday, Feb 18 @ 9:03 am
  • Jana Murray

    Sorry to see the original owner’s unable to keep their property in the family. Too many families are put in this position.

    Tuesday, Feb 21 @ 6:16 pm
  • Cute cats

    Thank you to to the new owners for investing in our community-this is such wonderful news! Seniors and others won’t have to drive to KDH for a day or evening of entertainment. Arthouse films, please, along with other suggestions!

    Wednesday, Feb 22 @ 11:14 pm