- Julia Barth
North Park Theater: Over 100 Years of Movies
By Julia Barth, Editor-in-Chief
Buffalo has no shortage of things to do and places to see. One notable landmark that has been a staple in the lives of Buffalo residents for the last century is the North Park Theater, located on Hertel Avenue in the heart of North Buffalo.
Built in 1920, the North Park Theater has seen many patrons in its 103-year-long history and has also gone through major changes, including recent renovations to restore it back to its ‘20s glory. Originally named “Shea’s North Park” after its owner Michael Shea, the location was part of the Shea’s chain of theaters in the area.
According to the website, Michael Shea wanted the theater to be eye-catching and captivating from the moment patrons walked in. He said that a theater should “lift the ‘common man’ out of his daily routine and place him in a setting so grandiose, so richly detailed, that he should think it the most natural thing in the world to watch his dreams come to life on the silver screen.” And even after a hundred years, the theater still does just that.
The neoclassical designs came to life thanks to Henry Spann, the architect who worked on the theater alongside Raphael Beck, a Pan-American Exposition painter who created the murals on the interior of the dome, according to the theater’s website.
But over the years, owner’s decided to save a quick buck by sacrificing some of the theater’s most classic and charming features, including its high ceilings and stained-glass windows. The building fell into disrepair until local attorney and building owner Tom Eoannou decided to completely restore the theater to its original beauty.
The restoration took a full eight months, giving “special focus to the proscenium and the auditorium ceiling’s center dome, which together contain Beck’s six large murals. One by one, they restored each mural to its original splendor,” according to the website.
Now, the theater continues to be a beloved landmark in Buffalo, with families opting to see films there specifically to support it. I have recently gotten to see a few movies there, enjoying not only the films but also the splendor of the theater itself.
One thing I particularly enjoy about North Park is that they show older movies so that people can watch them on the big screen. During the 50th anniversary of “The Godfather,” my family and I went to North Park to watch the original, a movie my Italian family loves and quotes on a daily basis. Over winter break, we also went to see “Christmas Vacation” to celebrate the holiday and have a laugh at one of our favorite Christmas movies.
Besides showing reruns (check their website for the full schedule), they also keep up with current releases, even screening some more indie films that might not be shown at the main movie theater chains: next week, they are showing films like “Full Time” and “Corsage.” They also do special events for holidays, such as showing “The Room” on Valentine’s Day.
So, on this long President’s Day weekend — or for anyone who has a February break from school or work! —, think about checking out North Park Theater, a landmark that has been special to Buffalo for over a hundred years and will continue to serve the community with its beauty and charm for many more.