Lafayette Theatre

97 Lafayette Avenue,
Suffern, NY 10901

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Lafayette Theatre auditorium

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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 674 comments)

movieguy on June 11, 2014 at 9:38 am

Belle shows tonight and tomorrow at 7:00pm. Make sure to come out and see it. As it is a very good film. PERFECT to see in a Grand Movie Palace!

How To Train Your Dragon 2 begins Friday. Getting 100% Fresh Rating on RT site..

Oklahoma is the final SPRING classic film.

movieguy on June 11, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Sunday June 22nd will be the 2nd of 4 90th Anniversary Celebrations at the theatre! Willie Wonka circa 1971 will show starting at 2:00pm. However get there EARLY as 300 people were turned away for the Wizard Of OZ On March 2. The line was LONG at noon!

It WILL be a great time for ALL. Bring the kids!

bolorkay on July 8, 2014 at 5:14 am

At one of the last screenings of the spring season, it was mentioned that an advance list for the fall “classics” is available… will that list be posted here ? Thank You

movieguy on July 31, 2014 at 7:44 am

Here is the schedule for the fall films series!

October 11th Gone With The Wind (1939)

October 18th Casablanca (1942)

October 25th On The Waterfront (1954)

November 1st The Phantom Of The Opera (1925) (silent film)

November 8th West Side Story (1961)

November 15th Godfather II (1974)

November 22nd Amadeus (1984)

November 29th Unforgiven (1992)

December 6th Chicago (2002)

December 13th It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) (Christmas Special)

movieguy on July 31, 2014 at 7:50 am

Last chance Tonight to see Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes at 7:15pm!

Tomorrow starts Guardians Of The Galaxy!

Looks to be one of the BEST BIG SUMMER movies! The sound system has been upgraded and is now outstanding! Just the right level without being too loud or ear piercing.

Cool AC! Big Bright BIG TRUE Silver Screen! The film just POPS OFF the screen

Plus a organ concert before the Sat Friday and Sat evening shows!


bolorkay on July 31, 2014 at 8:51 am

Thanks, Movieguy for posting the Fall “Film Classics” schedule. Shaping up to be a very promising season. (On The Waterfront, Godfather II, Amadeus… who could ask for more?)

Perhaps I’m beating a “dead horse” but is there a chance for the return of the “Horror-thon” from a couple of seasons back ? One of my favorite film series at the Lafayette (although I guess I’m in the minority on this one.) but my guess is that it was not a very big money-maker for the Lafayette.

movieguy on July 31, 2014 at 8:57 am

Sadly the Horror Thorn will NOT be making a return. Nelson Page was the one who did that every year. 2012 was the last year it was done. Page retired and left The Lafayette in July 2013.

It did not make a lot of $$$ but was a Beloved series.

movieguy on July 31, 2014 at 9:15 am

I URGE ALL Cinema Treasure and Movie Palace fans to COME OUT to The Lafayette Theatre! For Not only CLASSIC films and special events. But the FIRST RUN FILMS!

The Lafayette wants and NEEDS more folks to fill the seats for regular films!

THE Sound system has been upgraded.Best it has been in the decades. Clear crisp and not overly loud. AC cool and comfortable, wo freezing one out.

New Silver Screen, images pop off the screen.

Popcorn Fresh popped at each show. Organ concert before Fri and Sat evening show. Stunning Neon Marque.

Lowest Prices $10.00 for 2D Films $13.00 for 3-D

No 20 minutes of adds to sit thru! You wont be HIT with 6-8 annoying loud previews!

So by-pass the muti-plex. Drive a little out of your way! IT IS WORTH IT!

movieguy on August 19, 2014 at 8:30 am

A Hundred Foot Journey IS now playing at The Lafayette Theatre. A excellent mid summer film. Goood acting and a smart, funny script.

Catch it this week and next weekend!

movieguy on August 19, 2014 at 8:37 am

September 21 Sunday. Will be the 3rd 90th Anniversary Celebration. ET- The Extra Terrestrial will be the film shown! Admission $.25!!! Same as when the GRAND old girl opened in 1924!!!

Do NOT miss it!

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