Shea's Seneca Theater

2188 Seneca Street,
Buffalo, NY 14210

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Paramount-Publix, Shea Theatres

Architects: William T. Spann

Functions: Banquet Hall

Styles: Adam

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Shea’s Seneca Theatre opened on 11th January 1930 screening “The Mighty” starring George Bancroft and Vera Ralston. The 3 Manual 15 Rank Wurltzer theatre organ was played by Nelson Selby.

It was the last, the largest and the most magnificent of the three neighborhood theatres which were part of Michael Shea’s dream that every neighborhood should have a theatre of first magnitude, this one located in the district of West Seneca.

It was designed by local Buffalo architect Willliam T. Spann in an Adam style and all seating was on one floor.

The auditorium of the Seneca Theatre was demolished in 1970 and became car parking space, but the front of the building and lobby were retained. They were restored and converted into a banquet hall in January 2019. The theatre’s retail spaces have been restored and are back in retail use, and other parts of the building have been converted into 23 apartments.

Contributed by KenRoe

Recent comments (view all 22 comments)

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!”

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.

railroad on April 8, 2008 at 10:21 pm

Phone number 1960: TRiangle 5715

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

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!

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!

JohnMikoley on August 25, 2015 at 8:21 am

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

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.

LouB on November 17, 2016 at 9:33 pm

article This article deals with the Sheas Seneca.

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