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Great State: Buffalo Theatre

BUFFALO, Okla. — The popcorn is hot and fresh. The people are ready for a good show. On a Friday night there are thousands of theaters across the country where the same scene plays out. But, as you might expect, in a place where movie westerns are far more likely to be filmed than viewed, this tiny theater in Buffalo does things a little differently. “We’ve been open since October of 2007,” boasts manager James Leonard.

There never was a herd of theaters in Buffalo, just one, and it burned to the ground in the late 60’s. Its replacement opened a few years later, but like its namesake, it too was ready to vanish from the plains until Leonard stepped in. He beat the bushes, found a few benefactors, and fashioned a model for making things work. “We just have everybody from across the community that continues to volunteer their time so that we can have a theater here and a pretty nice one.”

He has counter workers, ticket takers, and projectionists, but every one of them is a volunteer. James doesn’t take a salary either. No one does. Leonard jokes, “The workers have have free popcorn and coke while they’re working so I guess that’s something.”

Every dollar that comes it goes to keeping the Buffalo alive and thriving. Debbie Barton, working concessions tonight, puts it best. “I think the love this community has, not only for one another but for the businesses in the town, is what makes this theater so special.

Inside the auditorium sits another example of the town’s devotion to its movie house. When the old seats wore out the ladies from the quilting club moved in and hand stitched the replacements. Even high school kids like Briseda Sarabia started volunteer shifts early on. “I was 13 when I started working here,” she says.

Tonight’s show is ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’, shown on a brand new digital projector. The Buffalo is definitely a unique animal. Resilient, strong even in head wind. Other theaters may be long since closed but this Buffalo still roams.

The Buffalo Theatre shows a new movie every week. Shows are Friday and Saturday night with a matinée on Sunday. Tickets are $5 for adults. A small popcorn costs $1.