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North Park Theatre added to state Historic Business Preservation Registry

The colorful entrance to the North Park Theatre.
North Park Theatre

Buffalo's North Park Theatre is now on the New York State Historic Business Preservation Registry.

The honorary registry, established in 2020 by the state’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, highlights businesses that have been in operation for at least 50 years and have contributed to their community's history.

"To see a film at the North Park is to revel in the grandiosity of its history, as well as that of Western New York and the people who continuously work to make this space a permanent wonder,” said Assemblymember Jon Rivera (D-Buffalo), who nominated the theater for the registry.

Opened in 1920, the North Park was the original neighborhood movie theater of the Shea’s Amusement Company, founded by Michael Shea. Shea took capital from his vaudeville theaters operation at the beginning of the 20th century and invested in movie theaters, which were a novel technology at the time.

At its peak, Shea’s theater empire extended throughout Western New York and into Toronto. While most don’t stand today, his flagship downtown theater, Shea’s Buffalo, and the neighborhood cinema, the North Park, survive.

In 2013, building owner and local defense attorney Tom Eoannou saw an opportunity to invest in the North Park on a grander scale, Over eight months, he restored the theater to its 1920s glory.

Through its recognition as a New York State Historic Business, the power of cinema will continue for years to come. It continues to offer an eclectic mix of films from all over the world to the people of its Hertel-Parkside community and Western New York.

“Local landmark businesses like the North Park Theatre contribute tremendously to the character and identity of a neighborhood," said Assemblymember Bill Conrad (D-Tonawanda). "One glimpse of the iconic marquee tells passers-by that North Buffalo is a place steeped in history and culture, and that the community here values and protects both — and has done so for generations."