Lafayette Theatre

97 Lafayette Avenue,
Suffern, NY 10901

Unfavorite 34 people favorited this theater

Lafayette Theatre auditorium

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The history of the Lafayette Theatre, named for the Revolutionary War hero the Marquis de Lafayette, began when the Suffern Amusement Company hired noted theater architect Eugene DeRosa to design a location on Lafayette Avenue in downtown Suffern, New York. DaRosa’s concept was a combination of French and Italian Renaissance influences, subtlety mixed in a “Beaux Arts” style. The theater was also equipped with a custom-designed Muller organ to accompany silent films and augment live performances.

The Lafayette Theatre opened its doors in 1924 with the silent film classic “Scaramouche,” and flourished through the rest of the 1920’s with live vaudeville shows and film presentations. A renovation in 1927 added the distinctive Opera Boxes along the side walls and, shortly thereafter, the projection equipment was updated to play the new miracle called ‘Talking Pictures’. During the mid-1930’s, an air-cooling system was installed which, unfortunately, forced the removal of the organ. It was during this renovation that the chandelier was also removed.

After World War II ended, movie-going habits changed with the advent of television. To keep pace with audience expectations, the Lafayette Theatre changed, too. Equipment to handle 3-D films was installed in early 1953 and, later that year, the Lafayette Theatre was the first theater in Rockland County to install CinemaScope to show widescreen, stereophonic sound movies. The premiere engagement was the Biblical epic “The Robe” and audiences flocked to the Lafayette Theatre to see it in the new widescreen process, modestly known as “The Miracle You See Without Glasses!”

The Lafayette’s star faded during the 1950’s and 1960’s as downtown populations moved further into the suburbs and television took hold as the popular entertainment medium of the day. Luckily, the Lafayette Theatre was spared both the wrecking ball and the multiplexing boom, where large single-screen auditoriums were divided up into several small theaters to accommodate playing several films at once. As part of a minor renovation in the late 1980s, the old stage was refurbished and the New York Theatre Organ Society installed a new pipe organ, the Ben Hall Memorial Mighty Wurlitzer.

In the late-1990’s, the Lafayette’s future as a single-screen neighborhood movie palace was uncertain until Robert Benmosche, a resident of Suffern and chairman of MetLife Insurance, saw the potential of the Lafayette Theatre and purchased the building that houses the theater, making necessary and immediate repairs to the roof and exterior in order to prevent any more serious damage from occurring.

Late in 2002, the Galaxy Theatre Corporation, under the leadership of Nelson Page, took a long-term lease to operate the 1,000-seat Lafayette Theatre as a single-screen movie house, erasing any lingering fears that the unique building would be converted to small auditoriums. Page and his team began immediately to refurbish the interior of the theater, bringing back its luxurious pre-war style while investing it with modern projection equipment and concession areas. In September of 2003, a chandelier was hoisted to the ceiling of the Lafayette Theatre, the first time an ornate lighting fixture had been there since the 1930’s, and it was a final signal of the rebirth and continued good health of Suffern’s downtown treasure.

The Lafayette Theatre thrives seven days a week as a first-run movie theater. From February 2003 to December 2008, a classic film series, especially on Saturday mornings, presented over 250 classic films. Boston Culinary Group became a partner of Page in 2007, and Page departed in January 2009, but later in 2009 Page bought out Boston Culinary Group’s interest and resumed control of the theatre. New owners took over in August 2013.

Contributed by Pete Apruzzese

Recent comments (view all 865 comments)

movieguy on June 19, 2016 at 6:57 pm

There is also a 35 mm projector up in the booth a platter system. It has not been used in many years because of the switch to digital

bolorkay on June 19, 2016 at 7:16 pm

Would anyone know if there is a link to a web site for the Ramapo Cultural Arts Center?

I searched but found nothing.

Thank You

PeterApruzzese on June 19, 2016 at 7:17 pm

I ran the 35mm at the Cultural Arts Center one night during the Jewish Film Festival in, I think, 2004. That wasn’t the original gear, I’m pretty certain it was donated by Nelson Page after being removed from one of his other theaters and that showing was the first time it had been used. The night was memorable because the motor on the feed platter burned out about 20 minutes into the show and I had to turn the platter by hand for the next two hours.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on June 19, 2016 at 7:26 pm

And how many people who didn’t have the dedication and pride in their work that our friend Pete has would’ve simply cancelled that show?

During their Lafayette years, Pete and Nelson were directly responsible for some of the most memorable movie screenings I’ve ever attended.

bolorkay on June 19, 2016 at 7:49 pm

Very well-said, Bill.

Dedicated film programmers such as Pete and Nelson (who also love film) are becoming as hard to find as good 35mm prints.

Perhaps I’m assuming a bit but it’s a sad day when when local politics interferes with such a wonderful cul tural program as “Big Screen Classics”. (or whatever the latest was.)

movieguy on June 19, 2016 at 10:03 pm

If you want to see the current programming at the Ramapo cultural arts Center. It’s listed under Maveli Cinemas . Go to Facebook and type in “ Maveli Cinemas

movieguy on June 19, 2016 at 10:07 pm

Pete and Nelson certainly did a fantastic job programming the Lafayette theater with 3-D film festivals and the classic movies Saturday mornings.

Always wonderful presentations in 35mm. Pete worked his ass off during the 3-D festival in 2004. Remember he had to have two projectors running basically exactly at the same time to have perfect 3-D.

Beautiful prints and a great selection of Saturday morning classic films and great movies during the many film festivals the three day film festivals.

I am so happy that I was able to take part in the festivals and the Saturday morning Movies from 2003 until their last season of classic films Spring 2013

I can’t think of any theater now that does what Pete and Nelson did those 10 years

movieguy on June 20, 2016 at 4:49 am

While there will be no longer a partnership with the town of Ramapo, With the town of Ramapo sponsoring the classic series as they did in the past. There WILL be classic movies at the theater Saturday mornings . Just not the same schedule, as the town followed in the past. Updates coming soon

movieguy on June 27, 2016 at 2:59 pm

The fall classic series will be announced at the end of the summer. The town of Ramapo is no longer involved. But the theater will have classic movies this fall.

Sterlingmine5 on August 2, 2016 at 1:05 pm

Big Screen Classics Update 1. From 2003 to 2010 the Town of Ramapo helped fund and Promote the Big Screen Classics movie festival working with Nelson and Pete. 2 In 2010 Nelson asked me if the Town could purchase a digital projector for Lafayette use…After much discussion, I was able to convince the Town Bd that it was a worthwhile investment…We purchased the equipment in return for our Classic movie series being fully funded by Nelson’s company, a five year agreement memorialized this. 3 In 2013 Nelson left the business, and the Town was asked by the owner to act as the exhibitor of films at the theater…To keep the theater operational we agreed to do this in return for a small administrative fee.. I quickly found out what being an Exhibitor entailed ….filling out comprehensive credit applications (20 in total), scheduling movies working w our buyer and the draconian studios, coordinating all of the advertising and promotion, developing a social media presence – website, weekly email blast, signing up with groupon etc etc…In total we booked 65 first run movies and all of the sum, we kept the ship sailing sans the expertise of Nelson and Pete, I tried my best to keep the theater viable… 3. Shortly before the opening of Star Wars we were informed by the theater ownership that our services wee no longer needed..and that more flexibility in programming was desired and therefore the agreement to screen the Big Screen Classic series would not be renewed. Subsequently as per our initial agreement w Nelson we reclaimed our projector last week. Needless to say I was disappointed after working w the theater for 14 years, but as Willy Loman once said “there are no more long term relationships anymore” This is sad but true. The decision to end the the Town/theater partnership had nothing to do with politics, as most of you who attended the films know the film series was my passion… 4 To date the films for our 15th annual film series have been booked…the venue has not been finalized as of yet…will advise on both soon… Thanks for you ongoing support of our endeavors…please send me an email if you have any questions or suggestions Best Phil Tisi


You must login before making a comment.

New Comment

Subscribe Want to be emailed when a new comment is posted about this theater?
Just login to your account and subscribe to this theater