Suffolk Theater

118 E. Main Street,
Riverhead, NY 11901

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chelydra on March 29, 2005 at 4:36 am

I recall hearing he was a committed and enthusiastic teacher. He proudly told his employees at the Hampton Arts theater that he had his students (maybe you?) eating a welfare/food stamps diet for a week to see what it felt like. We smiled politely, but it was hard to suppress a guffaw (or a snarl), since we were literally living on peanuts, or rather peanut M&M’s and making about $40/week.

DonRosen on March 28, 2005 at 12:45 pm


Mr. Wesley, you mentioned as owners of the Hampton Arts and Suffolk, was my high school teacher at Berner High School, in Massapequa, in the late 60s-early 70s.

uncleal923 on March 21, 2005 at 7:27 pm

I never went to the Suffolk. I don’t live near Riverhead, but I know that the marquis was rusting away for a long time. There’s something to be said about old theater signage when its lit. Modern multiplex signage is contemporary without flash, and pannache (did I spell that right?). I was in Riverhead over a year ago, and the marquis was ablaze in all its glory. I was also to the Riverhead Grill, which is beautiful (and that from a diner enthusiast). Yes, there’s something to be said about shiner diners, and workig neon like the Suffolk Marquis.

Dianne on January 1, 2005 at 9:28 pm

Stage is set to sell theater in Riverhead
December 28, 2004
The last time the Suffolk Theatre’s doors were open, “Dirty Dancing” was playing on the big screen.
After years of false starts, Riverhead officials said they expect to authorize a contract tomorrow to sell the 1933 art deco movie house to Long Island City-based Castle Restoration and Construction. The group would purchase the 800-seat to be turned into a performing arts center, officials said.
“We didn’t even dream possible a full restoration,” said Town Supervisor Phil Cardinale.
The town, which has owned the theater since 1994, had almost given up on a performing arts center use this summer when it issued a request for proposals that included a variety of other expanded uses. Castle was one of the early bidders.
“We expect to close on the deal no later than Feb. 18,” Cardinale said.
Castle president Robert Castaldi said renovations should take about a year and would include refurbishing the interior, and replacing the electrical, plumbing, heating and air-conditioning systems. Meanwhile, he wants to keep the building and architectural design intact.
He said the intent is to be open seven days a week from about 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. A variety of shows including jazz, comedy and off-Broadway musicals would be offered, he added. During the week, the center might host events such as antique auctions and corporate functions, and he says he would like to keep a single screen for movies.“Whatever fills the seats,” Castaldi said.
As part of the purchase, Castle will acquire two nearby parcels of land. That will allow it to eliminate a blind alley adjacent to the property for better parking access and expand the back of the building to push out the stage and add dressing rooms.
For information on the Suffolk Theatre E-mail

chelydra on November 9, 2004 at 4:29 am

In my first post, above, I accidentally misspelled the name of the last operator – should be WESLEY (or possibly Westley or Westly).

chelydra on November 9, 2004 at 3:45 am

Here’s some news on the theater and its environs, from Newsday :

Remaking Riverhead’s downtown
November 6, 2004
Riverhead’s downtown business district could be completely transformed during the next decade, as the town board this week created several new zoning categories to encourage development and – at the same meeting – gave a warm reception to the newest candidate to rehabilitate the Suffolk Theatre.

Together, the actions open the door to construction of new five-story mixed- use retail and apartment buildings, professional offices and waterfront marinas, and also allow the reopening of an 800-seat Main Street art deco movie house that has been closed for nearly two decades.

“The face of downtown Riverhead will be very different a decade from now,” said Supervisor Philip Cardinale. “The potential for great change has been created by the new zoning … developers believe the creation of 250 to 500 apartments in the downtown area is very attractive, and when you bring in the people, the restaurants and specialized retail stores and attractions and night clubs will follow.”

The town board’s unanimous vote to approve five separate new downtown zoning categories was one of the final steps needed to fully implement Riverhead’s new master plan.

…[here I edited out several paragraphs about projects and zone changes]…

At the same meeting, the town board gave a warm reception to Robert Castaldi, owner of Castle Restoration and Construction of Long Island City, who has submitted a bid to restore and renovate the Suffolk Theatre and convert it into a performing arts center.
Because of a complex tax issue, Castaldi – whose firm has extensive experience in the rehabilitation of historic buildings – must acquire the property by February.
He expects to use the building to show films during the week, and for extensive live entertainment on weekends.
Councilman Edward Densieski called the firm “exceptionally well qualified” to reopen the big 1933 art deco movie house, which stands at the heart of the Main Street business district and which has been closed for 17 years.

Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc.
This article originally appeared at:
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longislandmovies on October 19, 2004 at 10:01 am

Riverhead is booming …the locals have gone to town hall and asked it to slow down……

Bway on October 19, 2004 at 6:15 am

*Eastern Long Island’s spectacular real estate boom, which has been gathering momentum for decades, eventually has to reach into Riverhead. When it finally does, it would be nice if the Suffolk Theater was still there *

I hate to break it to you but Riverhead is already there. Riverhead is booming…Starbucks, TGIFridays, Starbucks….The boom already hit Riverhead years ago.

chelydra on October 15, 2004 at 9:16 pm

By the way, when I was a little kid in the early 1950s, I used to get Riverhead mixed up with New York City! The lights were that bright, and Main Street was that bustling, especially for christmas shopping! The News-Review came out twice a week, with funny pages. And the Suffolk Theater was to Riverhead what Notre Dame is to Paris! Going there was a pilgrimage! The only problem was, it was sold out when there was a big new movie in town!

chelydra on October 15, 2004 at 9:08 pm

Hey, I love Riverhead! I have family there! But the town planners are totally corrupt. The most magically beautiful & unique little ecosystem on Long Island (if not the planet) was recently bulldozed for a golf course with the blessings of the Town Fathers. With that sort of vision guiding the town’s development, we’ll be lucky to get a Home Depot annex in the Suffolk Theater.

longislandmovies on October 15, 2004 at 8:32 pm

As i was president of the merchant assoc. and a consultant for the Suffolk theater in 1994- 95 i can tell you the town has its problems but not at all as you have said.

longislandmovies on October 15, 2004 at 8:15 pm

YERY POOR ,CRACKHOUSE INFESTED MAIN STREET??Riverhead is noHamptons but only a small section is poor . Just average folks….

chelydra on October 15, 2004 at 7:31 pm

The Suffolk Theater is probably the most magnificent classic 1930’s movie palace surviving in any American small town. Its decor, more Art Neuveau than Art Deco in style, is still intact – although endangered by lack of maintenance. The attempted restoration was hugely expensive, but that was due more to corruption that the amount of work actually.

Riverhead is a very poor town that has some great old buildings on Main Street, finer than anything in the nearby Hamptons, left over from its heyday circa 1900, when it was the center of a thriving agricultural economy and contained all the government offices and courthouses of Suffolk County. Repeated campaigns to “revive” the crackhouse-infested Main Street have been ineffectual; meanwhile, the by-pass a mile north has been developed with huge super-stores and fast food places.

Eastern Long Island’s spectacular real estate boom, which has been gathering momentum for decades, eventually has to reach into Riverhead. When it finally does, it would be nice if the Suffolk Theater was still there and available for its long-awaited reincarnation as a cultural center.

The other theater on West Main Street was a bizarre-looking shabby place with a facade of yellow and black diamond shapes, which showed second-run westerns and B movies. It folded in the 1960s, and was torn down a few years later.

The last owner that actually operated the Suffolk Theater (formerly the flagship of the United Artists chain on Long Island) was Ritchie Wesler (stepson of Joe Puma, see Hampton Arts) but despite his efforts, no one came to the movies, even with very cheap admission prices. The last great event at the place, so far as I know, was a anti-nuclear benefit concert starring Pete Seeger around 1980.

The old Vail Music Hall around the corner is even more of a gem, and it has attracted most of the limited supply of grassroots volunteer energy available for restoring theaters in Riverhead.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on June 18, 2004 at 11:01 am

The map does not calibrate with the address of 118 Main Street. It is apparently still 118 East Main Street.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on June 18, 2004 at 10:24 am

Whatever became of the town’s other theatre, the Riverhead, which was situated at 37 West Main Street and had 1,009 seats, according to the 1954 Film Daily Year Book? That edition gives the Suffolk Theatre’s address as 118 East Main Street, which suggests that “East” and “West” designations have since been dropped.