Pioneer Open Air Theatre

Paterson Street,
Tennant Creek, NT 0860

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The Pioneer Open Air Theatre, Paterson Street, Tennant Creek (known as the old picture theatre)

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The Pioneer Open Air Theatre was opened in 1937. It was closed in 1973. The property suffered a fire in 1977 and it was demolished in April 1977.

Contributed by David Coppock

Recent comments (view all 4 comments)

davidcoppock on June 3, 2017 at 6:18 pm

Was there a drive-in in Tennant Creek?

davidcoppock on June 3, 2017 at 6:49 pm

This theatre may have been demolished(date unknown?)?

film on February 22, 2018 at 10:14 pm

Photo of Pioneer Theatre (1937) on this page courtesy of Tony Dowling in the interest of promoting Tennant Creek … Greg Lynch says – UPDATE – The Pioneer Open Air Theatre, Paterson Street, Tennant Creek (known as the old picture theatre) operated between 1937 and 1973 and then closed due to declining attendance’s when the new “Tennant Drive-In” (located in Peko Road) opened with a capacity of 250 cars – The original owners of The Pioneer Open Air were the Delaware brothers, described as picture show owners, and it is assumed they erected the building. The legend of The Pioneer Open Air Theatre, Tennant Creek however is the story and vision of William Cecil Burton who was born near Winton in Qld, working as a projectionist with a traveling picture show. He arrived in Tennant Creek during the the middle 40’s –. In 1947 he began work on a new open air theatre he was to call “The Star” – Early in piece he found there was not sufficient power available from the town supply and he had to install his own generator. As advance bookings rolled in it was obvious that the capacity was inadequate, and extra seating was secured to house the additional patrons. The grand opening was on Saturday 30 May 1947 and business was good. There is no doubt that “The Star” was affecting the box office of the Pioneer which was located across town, also in Paterson Street. Early 1949 and Bill Burton ( the prevailer ) takes over the lease of the Pioneer Open Air Picture Theatre from the exhibitor Robert Shortt and decides to consolidate and close “The Star”. The final screening at The Star Open Air Theatre was held almost immediately in February 1949. The building was sold to the Tennant Creek Co. Operative. Storms and fire during the 1950’s saw the demise of the building, the stage was destroyed in 1954, some years later a fire, and then finally a storm in 1958, razed the building. The Pioneer was fitted out with canvas chairs and seated 470 people, while there was a program change three times a week. Bill Burton remained the proprietor of The Pioneer Open Air until his death in Nov 1968, leaving his family to carry on until it’s closure in 1974.– There was a fire in 1977 and by April that year the original theatre was ordered to be demolished. I am indebted to local Tennant Creek identity & historian, Pam Hodges for her contribution to the history of The Pioneer Theatre. Acknowledgements:: Pam Hodges – Tony Dowling. The Centralian Advocate (Alice Springs, NT) / Tennant Creek “Yesterday & Today” by Hilda Tuxworth / Northern Territory Government website –

film on February 22, 2018 at 11:57 pm

RECOGNITION – A Tennant Creek Park to be named after Theatre Owner, Bill Burton ?. On the 8/10/1982 the Northern Territory Government / Barkly Shire Council announced and gazetted that a park would be named after William Cecil Burton. This was revoked on 06/04/2016 due to the park never being constructed. It is hoped that Northern Territory Government & The Barkly Shire Council will soon find a suitable location for the recognition of Bill’s considerable achievements. …..

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