‘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


Barnhill Building Group has been selected as the Construction Manager @ Risk by the College of the Albemarle and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade contractors to submit bids for the furnishing labor, materials, equipment, and tools for the new College of The Albemarle – Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab (COA Health Sciences) located in Elizabeth City, NC. Please note: Only subcontractors who have been prequalified by Barnhill will be able to submit a Bid.

The project consists of the new construction of a 38,000-sf, 2-story expansion to the existing Owens Health Sciences Center and will house classrooms, labs, and a simulation lab. The site is just over just over 4.5 acres and is located on an active campus. This new construction will be a steel structure with a brick and metal panel veneer, curtainwall, and storefront glazing with a PVC roof membrane.

Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages:

BP0100: General Trades

BP0105: Final Cleaning

BP0390: Turnkey Concrete

BP0400: Turnkey Masonry

BP0500: Structural Steel & Misc. Steel

BP0740: Roofing

BP0750: Metal Panels

BP0790: Caulking / Caulking

BP0800: Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware

BP0840: Glass & Glazing

BP0925: Drywall

BP0960: Resilient Flooring

BP0980: Acoustical Ceilings

BP0990: Painting & Wallcovering

BP1005: Toilet Specialties / Accessories / Division 10

BP1010: Signage

BP1098: Demountable Partitions

BP1230: Finish Carpentry and Casework

BP1250: Window Treatment

BP1400: Elevators

BP2100: Fire Protection

BP2200: Plumbing

BP2300: HVAC

BP2600: Turnkey Electrical

BP3100: Turnkey Sitework

BP3290: Landscaping

Packages may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager. Historically underutilized business firms are encouraged to complete participation submittals.

HUB/MWBE OUTREACH MEETING: Barnhill Building Group will be conducting a HUB/MWBE Informational Session. You are encouraged to attend the following session to learn more about project participation opportunities available to you. These seminars will help to: Learn about project and scope; Inform and train Minority/HUB contractors in preparation for bidding this project; Assist in registration on the State of North Carolina Vendor link; Stimulate opportunities for Networking with other firms. Location and time TBD. Please visit our planroom at https://app.buildingconnected.com/public/54da832ce3edb5050017438b for more information.

Interested contractors should submit their completed prequalification submittals, by July 22, 2024, to Meredith Terrell at mterrell@barnhillcontracting.com or hardcopies can be mailed to Barnhill Contracting Company PO Box 31765 Raleigh, NC 27622 (4325 Pleasant Valley Road, NC 27612).



  • 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