Suffolk Theater

118 E. Main Street,
Riverhead, NY 11901

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chelydra
chelydra on October 16, 2004 at 5:08 am

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
longislandmovies on October 16, 2004 at 4:32 am

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
longislandmovies on October 16, 2004 at 4:15 am

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

chelydra
chelydra on October 16, 2004 at 3:31 am

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.