MANTEO, N.C. (WAVY) — The Pioneer Theater has been a staple in Manteo, North Carolina, for decades. Dating back to 1918, the theater’s owner, Buddy Creef, says it’s been in his family for generations.

“My great-grandfather started the business a block over. The building we’re in now my grandfather built in 1934 so it’s always been a part of the community,” Creef explained.

In its prime, the theater greeted stars like Andy Griffith. The show went on, even through high tides and hurricanes but for the first time in decades, he was forced to close the theater’s doors because of COVID-19.

“In North Carolina, restaurants were allowed to do to-go food and we did drive-up curbside concessions just to give folks the option to come get their popcorn and give me something to do,” said Creef.

When allowed, he opened back up at 30% capacity, but then three weeks ago, the projector blew. It was over an $8,000 hit. Some of Creef’s friends convinced him to take to social media with a GoFundMe for help and in a matter of a few days, more than double his goal was donated.

“It is amazing, people who used to live here, all over the country, the outpouring of support, it’s unbelievable. You’re making me cry,” said Creef.

Creef says the new equipment was installed and he was back up and running on Tuesday. Looking into the future, he’s going to do whatever it takes to keep the curtains open. Whether he has one movie-watcher or 100, he plans on dishing out arguably the best popcorn around for years to come.

Creef says he breaks even at the theater, which is fine because it’s about much more than money for him.