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 753 comments)

movieguy on April 22, 2015 at 2:01 pm

For this special event ONLY.. There WILL be outside food and drink allowed in the theatre Mr S. It IS part of a cross-promotional situation. It gets folks to support the local eateries. As well as let more people know about the Lafayette. Of course since a theatre makes its primary profit, from con-secession sales. No outside food and drink is allowed any other time.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on April 22, 2015 at 4:18 pm

Dine-in movie theaters are becoming popular. I think there are one or two in NJ. I just hope the diners don’t mess up the beautiful Lafayette.

movieguy on April 23, 2015 at 7:17 pm

Everything went smoothly with the wild and scenic film festival and the dine in option. People were very respectful and neat and didn’t slobber all over the floors and drop a lot of food. Very good turnout of about 700 people.

movieguy on May 23, 2015 at 4:16 am

Capote is The next film in the Saturday morning series of films. Definitely one worth coming out for. Taking place tomorrow doors open at 11 AM

mdvoskin on May 23, 2015 at 3:20 pm

I’ve stopped attending the Saturday morning film series when I found out that they no longer run film, and that many of these classic movie shows are not even 2K DCP’s, but rather consumer Bluray discs.

Movieguy, what would be helpful is if we were informed as to the format they are presenting the motion picture. While I will go out to see a 2K DCP presentation, I will never pay a theatre to see a consumer Bluray that I can watch at home.

bolorkay on May 23, 2015 at 4:16 pm

Point well taken, Mdvoskin. Personally I still enjoy the great Lafayette theater. I always made it a point to set aside a couple of hours every Saturday over the past ten years or so to attend the Film Classics series at least seven or eight times each season… but the films seemed a bit more “unusual” then, not the usual “cable classics” fare. It seems that, to some degree Nelson’s absence is being sorely felt.

JeffS on May 24, 2015 at 1:05 am

Bolorkay, While Nelson had a very big hand in how things ran at the Lafayette in the good old days, I think credit really needs to be given to Pete Apruzzese who did the programming and picked those more “unusual” titles. As you said, all I really see offered is TCM fare. Classics yes, but not unique.

Unique would be stop running “It’s a Wonderful Life” at Christmas every year and run something like “Christmas in Connecticut”.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on May 24, 2015 at 4:49 am

When I think back to the good old days, I think my favorite unusual choice at the Lafayette was “Becket” (1964). I don’t think that had been shown anywhere in 35mm for decades.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on May 24, 2015 at 4:52 am

And of course “Journey to the Center of the Earth” (1959) with a CinemaScope print from the 20th Century-Fox vault, a packed house, and the volume turned way up. There were many fantastic shows like that, come to think of it.

movieguy on May 25, 2015 at 3:51 am

Yes I surely miss those days. Journey to the center of the earth was a fantastic print.

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