Shea's Buffalo Theater


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Shea's Buffalo, photos by Joe Sparacio, Wikipedia, Mike Puma, Swiatek Studios


642 Main Street Buffalo, NY 14202
Google Bird's Eye View
Ellicott Council District
SBL: 111.38-3-5
Erie County Property Info
County Tax Map (loads GIS page)
City of Buffalo Parcel Viewer
Also known as 646 Main

Adjacent to: 636 Main Street and Laube's Old Spain Restaurant / Smith Theatre
Across from: Jacob Dold Building and 639 Main Street


City of Buffalo

Physical Description

Steel and concrete construction with terracotta trim on the Main Street facade
3,019 seat theater

Current Condition

Restored and operational


  • Michael Shea sells theater chain (at one time operating 13 theaters) to Paramount to help fund building of Shea's Buffalo for $2 million Buffalo Spree
  • Designed by Rapp & Rapp, the Chicago architectural firm considered among the handful of greatest movie-palace designers. The Buffalo News
  • 1925 - Delays in construction prevented it from being completed before Christmas
  • January 16, 1926 - Shea's Buffalo Theatre was officially opened.
  • 1950s/1960s - Decline of downtown Buffalo and the rise of suburban sprawl. Loews Corporation purchased Shea’s. Buffalo Spree
  • 1973 - Loans from the bank of future theater president Anthony Conte help stave off demolition The Buffalo News
  • December 1974 - The City of Buffalo foreclosed on Shea’s for back taxes Buffalo Spree
  • 1975 - The not-for-profit Friends of Buffalo Theater organized in 1975 to save Shea’s from the wrecking ball. Buffalo Spree
    • "Shea’s was nearly torn down in the 1970s because of its owner’s business problems, but squatters occupied the theater and refused to leave" NY Times
    • "The group worked to restore Shea’s, beginning with its Mighty Wurlitzer organ" Buffalo Spree
  • 1980 - The Shea’s O’Connell Preservation Guild began management of the building Buffalo Spree

Recent Events and Actions Taken

  • 1998 - Theater shut down for a year for a $16 million stage expansion The Buffalo News
    • "expansion of the original stage to fifty feet deep, increased wing space, three star suites, seven principal suites, and six chorus suites. A new loading dock was also built" Buffalo Spree
  • March 2001 - Anthony C. Conte, a former banker and entrepreneur, took the helm as president and chief executive officer, when the theater was $5.2 million in debt.
    • 'He established a five-year plan to eliminate the debt and pay for the theater’s exterior restoration, which reached its goal in three years' The Buffalo News
  • 2004 - Completion of exterior renovation
    • "Replicas of the original 65-foot-tall, green-and-gold blade sign and “Wonder Theatre” sign were installed. A missing pediment recreated from photographs was also put atop the building’s cream terra-cotta facade." The Buffalo News
  • 2013 - Replicas of the brass exterior doors were installed.
  • 2014 - Restoration of neo-classic Spanish Baroque interior, designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, is nearing completion
    • "New carpeting, lobby drapes, replastered walls and upgraded HVAC system have been followed by restoring the proscenium, high walls and 20 percent of the ceiling, with the remainder to be finished in the next two to three years." The Buffalo News
  • August 2014 - The last major renovations, including ceiling paint and lighting, is expected to be completed soon, in time for the 90th anniversary of the theater in January of 2016.

Other Pertinent Facts

  • Located in the Theater Historic Preservation District
  • It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975
  • Boasts one of four theater interiors by Louis Comfort Tiffany
  • 2014 - "one of the top-grossing one-week, subscriber-based engagements for traveling Broadway shows in the country" The Buffalo News


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Added 2013-01-08 • Last changed 2017-03-06