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 899 comments)

bolorkay on October 16, 2016 at 1:53 am

I sometimes wonder if one of the reasons that attendance has been down with the Lafayette’s Classic Film programs is the possibilty that few people outside of the immediate Suffern area know about this series of films. As a regular patron of the Loews Jersey,I’ve noticed ads in the Bergen Record every time they run one of their monthly classic film weekends and they seem to attract some very healthy – sized crowds for those film weekends. Perhaps the Lafayette might follow their advertising model and attempt to “spread the word”.

movieguy on October 16, 2016 at 1:59 am

Yes I think they should definitely do some more advertising. They advertise through Facebook. The person who does their advertising does a very good job and is passionate about the theater. But yes they need to do some more advertising. Unfortunately papers like the Bergen record are very expensive to run an ad. A small’s-ish size and in the Friday weekend section. The same size ad for example that Lowes jersey runs. Will cost about $180 just for that one ad for one day in the weekend section of the paper. The same cost for the Journal news in Rockland County. So there in lies the problem. If the theater wanted to advertise every week In the Journal news or the Bergen record. That would be close to $1000 a month. Question is would they get enough people coming from the ads to offset the cost of the advertising?

vindanpar on October 16, 2016 at 7:33 am

The Loew’s is showing Wonderful Life?


We’ve all seen it a million times and it works very well on TV without seeing it on a large screen.

Half the programming there seems very off. A lot of films that do not benefit from a large screen or look lost in a movie palace. They sure could have used a Frank Rowley or Bruce Goldstein.

hotwaterbottle on October 17, 2016 at 9:25 am

Newspaper advertising disappeared with Pete & Nelson. I tried in vain to convince Phil to at least list the regular feature’s showtime in the local paper’s movie timetable. But no, he didn’t think it was necessary. If it was on facebook or the website, it was good enough. Personally I can’t see the harm in running it in the local paper. It could only help, not hurt.

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?

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