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Saving a Downtown Manteo Icon

You can almost smell the salty, buttery, delicious popcorn from the Pioneer Theater we’ve all come to know and love over the last century. We have two local families to thank for carrying on the wonderful legacy. On February 14, the Creef family sold the Theater to the Basnight’s and Hatchell’s for $500,000. Since then, the families have gotten to work revamping the theater to its original glory and creating some fun additions that will be sure to please.  

In an interview, Michael Basnight discussed what inspired the purchase and future for the Pioneer Theater. Basnight has deep roots on the Outer Banks, growing up in Manteo and tracing his lineage back to the first settlement after the Lost Colony. He, like most of us who leave for opportunities away from the beach, felt compelled to return to his roots. “It’s just a matter of time before your family and the area will turn that magnet on to pull you home,” said Basnight. Not long after moving back, the theater went up for sale and he knew it was an opportunity to save an iconic part of Downtown Manteo. “We all have a lot of first memories there. I used to love the field trips in Elementary school where we would take our $3 and watch the latest kid’s movie and then walk back to school,” recalled Basnight.  

The Theater has 105 years of cinema, music, and performance art history that the families want to pay tribute to in a special way while also enhancing the experience. The lot beside the theater will be redone to feature a gathering spot for live music and refreshments where attendees can then enjoy a movie after or just remain outside. You’ll still be able to enjoy the original syrup fountain sodas and variety of salty and sweet concessions we’ve all loved for years but will now have the convenience of an option to pay with a card. The Theater’s stage will be utilized for music, plays, and much more.  

One exciting addition will be the living museum of relics from the last century of the Theater’s existence. Basnight mentioned that some of the original 1934 theater seats, movie posters signed by stars like Andy Griffith and Shia LaBeouf, and much more will be on display for everyone to enjoy. 

“I’m excited to share the smiles with everyone and let (the theater) continue on with the next generation.” 

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