Lafayette Theatre

97 Lafayette Avenue,
Suffern, NY 10901

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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 712 comments)

Rstewart
Rstewart on February 10, 2015 at 4:37 pm

Well, I’ll say that although I am a pretty good distance from Suffern (in the Lehigh Valley of PA), we try to go up as we can to see films and I think it is wonderful that they still try to present classics. We have a comparable theater here, the State, that I wish had an interest in screening classics from time to time, but they just don’t seem to care to do it. At one time in Atlanta, the Fox used to have a very good summer film program, but that has been scaled down over the years. Many cities have lost their film groups and clubs, so finding classics on the big screen is getting harder and harder, we should all applaud and support the Lafayette for doing what they can to screen the classics and maintain their wonderful facility. Some time ago someone posted something negative about seeing The Godfather at the Lafayette in digital and I’ll stand by my response then, “It will still be better than seeing The Godfather in digital at some 100 seat sticky floor, crackerbox multiplex or at home.” Kudos to the current operator of the Lafayette and to Nelson and Pete for everything they have all done to preserve such a wonderful place to spend a few hours.

movieguy
movieguy on February 11, 2015 at 4:34 am

Rstewart. Thank you for your positive comments. Hope you can come up from the Lehigh Valley to see some classics this spring. I know the Lehigh Valley has a lot of older theaters. Like the beautiful Roxy Theatre in North Hampton Pennsylvania and the Emmaus theater in Emmaus Pennsylvania. As well the 19th St. theater.too bad none of them do classic films

It is very difficult to get 35mm prints now. Even in the last season that Pete and Nelson did classic films,in spring of 2013. It was getting harder and harder for Pete to get 35mm prints. He did run a bunch of 35mm, but he had to also run a fair number of DCP’s that season. If Pete Nelson had stayed on, they would have had to run more DCP’s as the years went on. I’m sure they still would’ve been able to get some 35mm. But not as it was in years past where they had every film, run in 35mm.

Plus the cost of getting a 35mm print is higher than running acDCP. The total cost of renting a 35mm print and paying for the shipping back-and-forth, comes to about $620. The DCP cost about $350 to screen.

movieguy
movieguy on February 11, 2015 at 6:53 am

50 shades of gray will be opening at the Lafayette theater this Thursday night, with an 8 PM show. Don’t miss out on seeing this steamy adaptation of the The best-selling book.showtimes for Friday 7:30 PM. Saturday and Sunday 1:30 PM 4:30 PM and 7:30 PM. All shows before 3 PM just $8.00 Come one half hour before the Friday night and Saturday night shows. And be treated to a concert on the pipe organ, skillfully played by a member of the theater organ society. A beautiful movie palace lovingly restored. Delicious popcorn popped right before your eyes, not heated up, Premade popcorn, like you would get at the multiplex!

movieguy
movieguy on February 19, 2015 at 8:33 am

The #1 Movie in America,50 Shades Of Grey continues its run, this Thursday-Sunday.Showtime, Thursday 7:00pm, Friday 7:30 pm. Sat,Sun: 1:30,4:30 7;30.

Come listen to the organ play 30 minutes before the theatre lights are lowered, and the heavy red curtain opens, to reveal the beautiful TRUE silver screen. Fri and Sat evening shows, at at REAL ICONIC 91 YR OLD MOVIE PALACE!

movieguy
movieguy on February 24, 2015 at 1:01 pm

Tonight is the Banff Mountain film Festival. Doors open at 6 PM the program begins at 7 PM. Tickets can be bought at Ramsey outdoor on Route 17 in New Jersey. Or arrive early, before the doors open to get your ticket. As a very limited number of tickets will be sold at the theater box office.There will be completely different program tomorrow night Wednesday, 25 February. Tickets $19 in advance $22 at the door.

movieguy
movieguy on February 24, 2015 at 8:23 pm

The Banff Mountain film Festival was a great success. It was completely sold out. The show tomorrow is nearly sold out as well. A very small handful of tickets remain. They can be bought at the Theater box office, or at Ramsey outdoor on Route 17.Doors open tomorrow Wednesday, February 25 at 6 PM.

movieguy
movieguy on February 24, 2015 at 8:36 pm

The winner for the best picture of 2015. Bird man, will open up at the Lafayette theater this coming Friday, The 27th. It will be playing for one week only. Friday 7:30 PM. Saturday and Sunday 1:30 PM 4:30 PM 7:30 PM. As well as Thursday, March 5 at 7 PM.

movieguy
movieguy on February 25, 2015 at 12:30 pm

Couldn’t make it Tuesday night to the Banff Mountain film Festival? Well why not come out tonight. There are a handful of tickets still left. They can be bought at The theaters box office. Doors open at 6 PM the program starts at 7 PM. And entire new set of films, will take your breath away. Be sure to arrive early even if you already have a ticket. Because the seats will fill up quickly. You want to get the best seats in the house. Why not sit up in the old-fashioned balcony. You’ll have a clear line of sight to the big silver screen. Stadium seating circa 1924😊

movieguy
movieguy on February 27, 2015 at 4:21 am

Starting tonight Birdman starring Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis.The story of an actor trying to make a come back on Broadway. It really is an excellent film. Come down to the beautiful Lafayette theater. Showtimes: 7:30 PM tonight. Saturday and Sunday: 1:30 PM 4:30 PM 7:30 PM. Come one half hour before showtime on Friday and Saturday nights, to hear a preshow concert on the organ. First show Saturday and Sunday, admission price $8.00. Seniors $8.00 ANY TIME. Regular admission $10.00 The LOWEST in the county. Popcorn is made fresh before each show in an old-style popper!

hotwaterbottle
hotwaterbottle on February 27, 2015 at 9:37 am

Hey, movieguy, does Phil and the Lafayette management know you are doing this, your little cheerleading act? Why are you posting this stuff like you are the manager, Peter??

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