Lafayette Theatre

97 Lafayette Avenue,
Suffern, NY 10901

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Lafayette Theatre auditorium

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 903 comments)

mdvoskin on October 17, 2016 at 10:14 am

While there is nothing wrong with advertising on facebook, exclusively advertising there is a waste. Between preaching to the choir, and the fact that over half the population is not on facebook, it is clearly insufficient.

I have no idea who “vindanpar” is, but the Landmark Loews Jersey has not finalized any movie plans for the holidays. Wonderful Life is just one of many movies under consideration. Nobody in Jersey City considers the Lafayette competition, they are far enough away, and there are not enough people who patronize both venues for it to be so. Further, 90% of the films presented in Jersey City are on 35mm film.

mdvoskin on January 18, 2017 at 7:50 am

I went to see Jaws last weekend at the Lafayette, the first time I have been back since they ceased running 35mm film.

While the theatre looked to be in good shape and is clearly being maintained, the presentation sucked. The film opened to a consumer bluray player’s “pause” menu. The 2.35:1 aspect ratio film was presented “letterboxed”, centered within masking set for 1.85:1. The picture did not look too bad from the rear of the auditorium, but from the front third, it looked terrible. Not enough resolution, too much compression, and not bright enough, as one would expect watching a consumer bluray on a 30 foot wide screen.

I can watch blurays at home, I don’t need to go out and pay admission to watch them.

At some point, I am going to complain directly to Universal for allowing their film to be shown with such poor presentation.

PeterApruzzese on January 18, 2017 at 9:16 pm

That’s a shame about Jaws (and I suspect the other classics this month) – Universal has a very nice DCP of that title available, and I ran it in 35mm at the Lafayette about 13 years ago.

markp on January 19, 2017 at 2:49 pm

We ran the DCP last summer at the Basie

mdvoskin on October 9, 2017 at 3:38 pm

A mistake repeated. I went to see Blade Runner 2049 on Sunday, first show of the day.

The 2.35:1 aspect ratio film was presented “letterboxed”, centered within masking set for 1.85:1.

No surround sound. I realize the theatre does not have Dolby ATMOS, but no 5.1/7.1 surround. Maybe they were too lazy to turn on the amp.

Sticky auditorium floor.

As soon as the end credits started, they turned on those super bright work lights, that were aimed directly at the screen.

Cleaning the auditorium while patrons were still watching the ending credits.

I’m done with the Lafayette Theatre.

hotwaterbottle on October 10, 2017 at 11:49 am

It’s sad to hear what the place is turning into. I gave up on them several years ago when the town was still running the place. Between the amateur hour projection and the constant pleading to attend shows there and not at Nyack or Nanuet just became too much.

Sounds like James is asleep at the switch, as usual. Nelson, where are you?

ParkerSwann on October 25, 2017 at 10:45 pm

Having worked in Film and Television all my life,I need to interject about the reason though some may not know, that films especially old film classics are meant to be seen in a large theater rather than on a small device. The small devices,while convenient defeat the purpose of film that the light shows differently on a big screen rather than on a small device which gives the film itself a different look completely. Even 5hpugh you may have seen something many times before on a small device the look and feel is different, and being in a theater is a meant to be shared experience as originally intended. Unfortunately this whole experience is lost and inconceivable to some who have never experienced it. I applaud and appreciate those who try to recreate this. It is an expensive undertaking today( much like a white elephant mansion ), now no longer financially backed by the studios with professional people on the job too. . And unless a corporation like the one who took over The Fox theater in VA has a hand ,it’s tough to keep up with the Multiplexes. I stopped going to the Lafayette when they stopped showing the classic Halloween Marathon weekend so like 6 or 8 movies if I recall. Its not as big as some of the movie palaces, which took a lot of people to run like a Ringling Circus, but it does take, alot of work and expense…..and people who know how to make it run in this,day and age. I hope things get better.

moviebuff82 on October 26, 2017 at 8:17 am

This theater hasn’t aged well.

hotwaterbottle on October 26, 2017 at 12:19 pm

Parker, Exactly why I stopped going several years ago. The passing of 35mm film into digital didn’t help much but you are right. A favorite film looks different when seen on a big screen and it’s so much better. I must admit though they fooled me when they ran “THE AFRICAN QUEEN”; it was digital but it looked like a pristine 35mm print. Pete and Nelson would work hard programming the HorrorThon’s and a lot of the choices came down to the quality of the print. Unfortunately the last 2 years they ran the Big Screen Classics the tide was turning and shows were drawing fewer and fewer people. My main problem with them now, aside from shoddy showmenship, is the total lack of imagination of whoever is programming the classics now. It’s not even a pale shadow of what it used to be. The theatre itself is a jewel and should be preserved, not just because it’s the last single screen theatre in the area but, as they say, they just don’t make'em like that anymore.

moviebuff82, do you have anything of substance to add??

bolorkay on March 24, 2019 at 2:15 pm

Please don’t get me wrong, I think we need to support and patronize these great movies palaces such as the Lafayette and others but, this place just isn’t the same as it was let’s say about ten years ago or so. We owe it to these cinemas to help them “attempt” to preserve our cinematic heritage and at the same time attract audiences but the films that are currently being shown here don’t always seem to reflect that heritage. (it’s like the current owners don’t wish to take the chance to bring in those “reel classics.”)

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