Shea's Seneca Theater

2188 Seneca Street,
Buffalo, NY 14210

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LouB
LouB on November 17, 2016 at 9:33 pm

article This article deals with the Sheas Seneca.

bobjohnston
bobjohnston on September 6, 2015 at 2:04 pm

I lived on the corner of Parkview and Zittle from 1951 to 1965. I went to the Shea’s Seneca on Seneca Street across from Cazanovia. Many wonderful experiences. People don’t know the feeling these days.

JohnMikoley
JohnMikoley on August 25, 2015 at 8:21 am

The lobby still exists. I posted a photo. Sorry that the pic came out sideways!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 4, 2009 at 12:18 am

The Seneca Theatre closed in December, 1961, and was reopened in 1965, with its seating reduced to 1,332, according to this article in Boxoffice of April 19, 1965. There’s a small photo of the front of the theater.

I haven’t found out how long the Seneca survived as a movie house after this reopening, but the October 7, 1968, issue of Boxoffice gives the opening date of the Psycus, the discotheque-rock music club that was the theater’s later occupant, as September 27 that year.

The destructive behavior of a particularly delinquent generation of teenagers led to great distress among the elders of Buffalo, as told in one Boxoffice article about a wave of vandalism and rowdy behavior hitting the city’s theatres. According to one claim, almost every seat in the Seneca Theatre had been slashed or torn. One theater manager said “We’ve never had so much trouble trying to manage the youngsters. I’m sorry to say that the girls are worse than the boys.” The article appeared in Boxoffice of November 27, 1943. Kids those days!

msjudy
msjudy on December 3, 2009 at 1:57 pm

I’d love to walk through the Shea’s Seneca just one more time. Grew up on Norman Street and the theater was always a big part of life in the neighborhood. Thought it was gorgeous and I’d love to see a photo of the interior. My dad remembered an old theater located between Norman and Kamper Streets. That theater was around when he was young. He remember the lady who played the piano to accompany the old films and that they gave dishes away to entice people to come to the theaters, today’s collectibles!

NittyRanks
NittyRanks on September 14, 2008 at 7:14 pm

I looked this up because my band did a wedding on July 27th around the corner at the renovated masonic temple on Cazenovia St. I noticed it was a theater as I drove by. Here is the link from google maps. Look at the street view portion:

View link

railroad
railroad on April 8, 2008 at 10:21 pm

Phone number 1960: TRiangle 5715

BuffaloGrrl
BuffaloGrrl on January 11, 2008 at 9:06 am

Does anyone have a resource for photos of Shea’s Seneca Theater or any of the other theaters in the South Buffalo area? I am opening an office on Seneca St, a block away from the Seneca Theater and would like to showcase images of the area circa 1920’s – 1960’s.

Shea’s Seneca was also my first movie experience at 6 years old and I also still dream of it to this day. I was there the day demolition began and it was one of the saddest days of my life. It was an amazing, magical place.

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on September 22, 2007 at 8:34 am

Somewhere I saw that the Senaca had 1750 seats?
The WurliTzer Theatre Pipe Organ, Opus 2085, was shipped to the theater on May 12, 1929. The organ then went to the Haven Roller Rink in Lackawanna, New York and then to a private owner in Lancaster, New York. In the mid 70’s it went to Scooby’s Pizza in Dallas Texas. In the mid to late 80’s it was sold off as parts with the console going to the Avalon Theater in the former village of Bay View which is now a neighborhood of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The theater closed in 2001. The organ was removed in 2004 because the theatre was no longer heated, the organ was being ruined by water, mold, mildew, plaster and the chance of vandalism. The organ is now stored either in Milwaukee or Racine, Wisconsin. I have no idea if the Seneca console is still with the organ. The Avalon is supposed to be restored, but the new owner says it is unlikly the organ will be reinstalled.

“Gee Dad, it WAS a WurliTzer!”

klinehan
klinehan on September 7, 2007 at 2:39 pm

I grew up with the Shea Seneca Theater in the ‘60’s. It was the first movie theater I ever went to. It was beautiful. At some point, it closed and reopened around '64 with the help of the South Buffalo Businessman’s Association. It was managed by the beloved Harry Lotz. The seats on the sides of the theater were taken out to become dance floors. After the feature movie, local bands played onstage. Harry Lotz occasionally gave curtain speeches. I remember him asking “Do you kids want to see, 'The Trip’? (thunderous applause) I know I do!”

The theater had to close again but reopened as a music venue called Psycus. There were a lot of dayglo paintings and paisley couches in the lobby and an amazing light show. Among the bands that played there were Country Joe and the Fish, The Buckinghams, The Zombies, The Nazz, and The Bob Seger System. It only lasted a year and stood vacant for a year or two before it was demolished in 1970. I watched it being torn down. It was very sad. As it was being demolished you could see the old theater before it was gone. It was paved over into a parking lot.

roberttoplin
roberttoplin on December 26, 2005 at 6:59 pm

Richard G.:The theatre south of the Seneca might very well be the “Maxine” at 2228-32 Seneca. Last time that I was there it was a Rite Aid. It opened June 29, 1914 with 800 seats and was designed by Henry L. Spann. It later was remodeled and re-opened as the “New Maxine” on Apr.15, 1928. ………..Sorry I’m 7 months late, but I haven’t visited C.T. in quite awhile.

Patsy
Patsy on November 11, 2005 at 3:21 pm

Richard G: I’ve been trying to acquire information about the art deco Seneca Theatre in Salamanca NY. The architects in 1942 were John AND Drew Eberson!

dmercer
dmercer on July 22, 2005 at 11:48 am

By the way, although at the end of its existance all the seating was on the ground floor, once upon a time there was a balcony where patrons could smoke. I can’t remember if there was one staircase or two (some of my memories of the Seneca were mixed up with the Buffalo, another glorious venue). I remember sitting in the balcony with my parents watching “Attack of the Crab Monsters” in a double feature with “This Island Earth”. It was dish night and the stairs to the balcony were lined with boxes of dishes.

dmercer
dmercer on July 12, 2005 at 6:14 pm

The other great tragedy was the discovery that Cazenovia park, designed by the great Frederick Law Olmsted, had once not only contained a lake, but that there were islands in the lake. Go to http://www.geocities.com/brodericksm/caz_park.htm and scroll down to see a heartbreaking picture of the Casino at the height of its glory.

WilliamLambert
WilliamLambert on July 12, 2005 at 2:55 pm

Unfortunately some of my earliest memories of the Seneca were it being demolished. Even more unfortunately, at the time, my Grandma McFaul, the widow of Michael Shea’s protege and long time general manager, as well as, much of the theater district in Buffalo and owner of a good piece of the chain, at least the buildings… owned the building and the Skyroom Building in front at the time… The greatest sadness is that at the time these buildings weren’t viable and were very, very expensive without anyone to rent or occupy them… Rather like the Wal-Martization we see now… only then it was the Cineplexes and multiscreens… These absolutely unbelieveable creations could only be used for the limited purpose without destroying them. I am sure that if she were still alive and the communities realized and backed other uses things would be different… I grew up in South Buffalo and am the biggest booster of Buffalo wherever I go… I love the city, the weather and all of the great people… Look at the Central Terminal and it’s grandeur… My Dad worked for the Penn Central Railroad and then Conrail and worked in that building… Look at it’s struggle. Unfortunately, I no longer reside in Buffalo and will be visiting

Sadly, so many of the great buildings in Buffalo have gone, but so many really incredible buildings remain….

dmercer
dmercer on July 11, 2005 at 11:19 am

One of the two great tragedies of my youth was the closing of the Seneca theater (located, BTW, in South Buffalo, not West Seneca). It had a doomed ceiling that darkened when the movie was about to start. The front was faced with polished black slabs and kids would use them as mirrors. The bathrooms were in the basement and were finished in marble and brass. There was a balcony – the smoking loge – that was closed due to structural rot for as long as I remember. Saturdays they had double feature matinees for a quarter, usually of movies long past their release, but ones we kids probably had never seen. It was the first, and best, place I saw “The Wizard of Oz”.
Popcorn came in rectangular boxes which we would flatten and sail at the screen. There was a purple neon clock next to the screen and if the start of the show was late by a second, we’d begin to stomp our feet.

I literally still dream of that place a couple of times a year. I always wake up sad when I do.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on May 1, 2005 at 12:56 pm

Thanks for that info Richard, and TJ too. My e-mail address is on my profile here to send your pictures. Looking forward…..

richardg
richardg on May 1, 2005 at 12:46 pm

Yes, the theatre to which I was referring was the Shea’s Seneca. The auditorium portion was demolished but the theatre’s entry facade and vast lobby are still standing. If you didn’t have any previous knowledge of the theatre, one could {as I did} easily mistake the vast remaining lobby portion as a complete theatre. The lobby portion is now used as a warehouse by the discount store at the other end of the complex. This person might own the entire complex. The back door of the loading dock of the lobby area was open when I walked by. A worker loading a truck would not let me in to look around but stated the owner would if he was there. I could see that much of the moulded plater still remains in various stages of condition. There is another building just a few doors south of the Shea’s which looks like it could have been a theatre also. All the locals seemed to think there was a theatre there but nobody could remember its name. It supposedly closed prior to the Shea’s Seneca. Maybe, T.J. can shed some light.
Ken, I have some pictures of the exterior as it stands today. Would you like me to email them to you.

TJGriff
TJGriff on April 25, 2005 at 7:06 pm

I grew up on the block behind Shea’s Seneca Theatre. I was 6 years old when the demolition took place in 1970. I have no memory of the inside of the theatre, but my parents and older siblings talk of its splendor.
The way the building was configured may lead to confusion about whether it was demolished or not. A group of storefronts on Seneca Street extended (from left to right) about 35 yards (including Grants Department store). The next set of doors was the entrance to Shea’s Seneca. You would enter these doors and be in a large and long lobby. (My parents tell me) The lobby continued BACK until it surpassed the extent of the back walls of the Seneca Street storefronts. Then patrons would turn left and enter the theatre, located BEHIND Grants, et. al. It was the auditorium that was demolished. The lobby portion is still there, although it is not open to the public and I have no idea what sort of condition it is in. The theatre proper is long gone, and the store fronts have held a variety of businesses including candy stores, an antique store, the D&K, and a Surplus Warehouse style general store. But portions of the facade and a (very loose interpretation of a) marquee serve as a reminder to local residents of the beautiful theatre that once graced the neighborhood.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on April 7, 2005 at 4:53 am

Thanks Richard;
The article I took information from in 1970 intimated that the theatre was about to be demolished, perhaps this didn’t happen after all.

Please take a look while you are down Seneca St next and let us know please.
Thanks

richardg
richardg on April 6, 2005 at 6:04 pm

Ken, I’m almost positive the Seneca is still standing or at least another theatre on Seneca Street is. The theatre building is large but no signage still exists. It was occupied by a dollar store two or three years ago which was the last time I past the area. While taking exterior pictures, I questioned a passer by who told me the theatre was called the “Seneca”. Anyway, soon I’ll be heading down Seneca St. and I’ll see if the address corresponds.