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646 Main St, Buffalo, NY 14202
Phone / FAX
(716) 847-1410 / 847-1644
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Shea's Performing Arts Center is an historic entertainment venue that was designed by Rapp & Rapp and built in 1925, has been restored, and is an active concert and theater venue.The theater was nominated and subsequently named to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places - see Application on Buffalo as an Architectural Museum.


Shea's Buffalo, was designed by the distinguished firm of Rapp and Rapp from Chicago. Shea’s was modeled off of a combination of Spanish and French Baroque and elaborate styles. The theater was designed to be similar to opera houses and palaces of Europe from the 16th and 17th centuries. The theater was built to accommodate nearly 4,000 people, but several hundred seats were removed in the 1930s to make the orchestra area more accommodating when seated there. Shea’s interior was designed by world famous designer/artist Louis Comfort Tiffany most of his original elements are still in place today. Many of the furnishings and fixtures were supplied by Marshall Field in Chicago, and included massive Czechoslovakian crystal chandeliers. The cost of construction and outfitting of the theater in 1926 was just over $1,900,000. Shea’s Buffalo was originally made to show silent movies. It took one year to build the entire theater. The theater opened January 16, 1926 with the film King of Main Street, starring Adolph Menjou. When Michael Shea retired in 1930, Shea's profit was headed by V. R. McFaul, who owned and managed several dozen Shea's Theaters in the metro Buffalo area until he died in 1955. Loew's Corp took over the chain's interests in 1948, upon the Deregulation of the Movie and Theater Industry adjudicated by the Supreme Court. When it was at risk of being made into a parking lot, volunteers prevented this by having it added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

See article and photos "Sheas Buffalo - Buffalo Palace" from September Buffalo Downtowner

During the 1960s and 1970s when downtown Buffalo was in decline Shea’s was also feeling the pain of the decline. It was operated at that time by Loew's Corporation as mainly a showcase for "Blacksploitation" films such as the "Super Fly" series. The theater was owned at that time by Leon Lawrence Sidell, who was failing to pay his taxes. A small group of people, known as the “Friends of Buffalo” began to do work on the organ, they also worked on engineering needs of the theater to help out the Loew’s corporation. The “Friends of Buffalo” group included Curt Mangel, Ben Hiltz, Steve LaManna, Dan Harter and 9 others.

It became evident that the theater would fail to pay back taxes to the city. Loew's was preparing to leave and strip the theater of its contents. The Friends of buffalo went through the theater and inventoried every item. The judge involved in this case, blocked Loew's from removing the contents. Loew's claimed that they owned these items and legal counter argument stated that the items were an essential part of the theater. The judge actually toured the theater and ruled for the Friends and the City of Buffalo.

Under the watch of Comptroller George O’Connell, and the Friends, the theater was able to keep its utilities running, and the repairs began. The Friends of the Buffalo were then given operating privileges of the building and undertook massive restoration through government grants and developed a performance series in the late 70's

A Grand Re-Opening was mounted to a sold-out audience in the late 1970s with Cab Calloway and George Burns. Calloway had performed at the theater at its original opening week in 1926 and Burns had performed there in the late 1940s.

The volunteer Friends of the Buffalo group were then replaced by a professional management team. The Friends continued to broaden its volunteer base, which worked on various restoration projects.

The theater is a hugely successful performance center, having undergone a large expansion of its stage facilities to provide accommodations for larger touring productions

In 2006, to celebrate the theater's 80th birthday, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of conductor JoAnn Falletta played a concert there with Anthony Neuman playing the organ. Highlights of the program included Camille Saint-Saëns "Organ" Symphony 3 in C minor, selections from The Phantom of the Opera, Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, and Louis Vierne's Carillon de Westminster.


"To restore and maintain Shea’s Buffalo Theatre for present and future generations to enjoy as a working historic theatre providing a wide variety of live performing arts experiences for our patrons and innovative and effective educational experiences fostering an appreciation of live theatre by area youth," - Linda Sroka, Development Manager at Shea's.

In the late 1970’s, heading restoration efforts was that of the theater’s organ, the ‘Mighty Wurlitzer’. After being abandoned for years, it was in horrible condition. See Photos and Info on

The Shea’s Performing Arts Center was once considered by many, as “the most beautiful theater in North America.” There are many loyal supporters who still feel this way today and as a result, they are working hard to maintain and restore the theater to its original state. Volunteers work day in and day out to replenish the interior of the theater.

The Volunteer Restoration Program is constantly looking for new members. There is no experience required; commitment and a good attitude are valued much more within the group. Volunteers have the opportunity to be introduced to others from various backgrounds, learn about the theater’s majestic architecture and history, and further develop craftsmanship skills they may already have as well as acquire new ones. Their work will also become a part of the theater’s ongoing and ever-changing history. For more information about participating in the Volunteer Restoration Program, contact Doris Collins, Shea’s restoration consultant, at 716-829-1155.


Shea’s Performing Arts Center is a non-profit organization.

This theater is a part of our nation’s history and relies on the support of individuals, corporations and other foundations in order to continue its majestic history. Ticket sales and other earned income do not completely cover the operating costs of the theatre. Therefore, the generosity of our donors to Shea’s Annual Fund is vital to sustain its longevity. Proceeds go to various operation costs and theater restoration efforts.

To support or get more information, contact Shea’s Development Manager, Linda Sroka, at 716-829-1170.

Shea's holds several encore events throughout the year... including:

  • OctoBEERFest: an annual event since 2007, features local breweries and restaurants, each presenting their favorite brew and/or appetizer to be sampled by patrons. Proceeds also benefiting the Food Bank of Western New York.
  • MartiniGras: Shea's version of Bourbon Street comes alive! The annual Martinis and Mardi Gras celebration in the lobbies and on stage since 2000. Dress in your best with a feather boa or Mardi Gras mask, and Shea's provides the beads, food, and more!
  • Shea's Black Tie Gala: The Black-Tie event serves as Shea's largest fundraiser and has been held annually for the last 18 years. The extended fun-filled evening starts off with cocktails and a silent auction at Buffalo's Adam's Mark Hotel. Followed by a gourmet dinner. From there, the party will travel to Shea's via provided transportation, where the performance will begin. All ticket-holders for this event receive preferred seating. After the show, Shea's hosts a Post Party, plenty of dancing, drinks, coffee, and desserts to go around. Cast members are also invited to attend the post-performance gathering. All proceeds from this event go back to the theater.
  • Fine Food & Wine Festival:The Annual Fine Wine & Food Festival event since 1995 allows attendees to sample various wines and delicious food from area restaurants, caterers and wineries.



  1. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15.