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 724 comments)

movieguy on February 28, 2015 at 8:41 am

Yes the Wurlitzer organ is having a important part replaced. So A temporary Organ has been brought in.I made an error in my post saying that the Wurlitzer organ would be played for tonight’s show.can’t wait for it to come back .

hotwaterbottle on March 2, 2015 at 9:57 am

Hey………..“movieguy”………..Earth to Peter….. Is there so little going on in your life that the only way to feel important is to impersonate a theatre manager? Does making it seem that you are involved with this theatre somehow fill a deep dark hole in your bent psyche? Your pom-pom shaking it getting old, buddy. Since you didn’t answer my last post, I think I’m on target there, Petey!

ChasSmith on March 2, 2015 at 10:11 am

I thought there was a report to flag and report offending posts, but I’m not seeing one at the moment, so…

I don’t know either of you, but I’m sick and tired of these personal grievances and attacks — which are not permitted here in the first place. Please take it to email.

hotwaterbottle on March 2, 2015 at 1:30 pm

Oh, well, gee whiz, Chas, since you are sick, and tired and offended I guess I better shut up then!!

movieguy on March 2, 2015 at 1:53 pm

If you didn’t get a chance to see the excellent film BIRDMAN this past weekend. You have one last chance, This Thursday, March 5 at 7 PM

Begins this coming Friday, March 6, The Theory Of Everything. Received an Oscar for best actor Eddie Redbaine. showtimes Friday: 7:30 pm. Sat, Sun 1:30 PM 4:30 PM 7:30 PM.

coldwaterbottle on March 2, 2015 at 2:04 pm

Hey, hotwaterbottle, or John if you prefer, how does it feel to be a troll?

HowardBHaas on March 2, 2015 at 2:34 pm

I reported today to the site masters what I perceived to be inappropriate comments by hotwaterbottle. The replied was this page will be monitored.

hotwaterbottle on March 2, 2015 at 2:55 pm

First of all, my name is NOT John. Second, I wouldn’t know how it would feel to be a troll, ok “coldwaterbottle” ? Cute name, that. I was expressing a personal opinion and asking questions. But since Peter can’t answer for himself, I guess all of you will. Does'nt matter. I’m done with this theatre, and this site. Enjoy yourselves.

movieguy on March 2, 2015 at 3:27 pm

Howard, I really do appreciate you, taking your personal time and reporting the offending comments, by the poster “hot water bottle” His postings, are highly inappropriate and definitely uncalled for.

jovanderlee on March 2, 2015 at 5:24 pm

No sense getting into a battle of wits with an unarmed person. Sooner rather than later hey trip themselves up, or just burn out. Just don’t feed the fire.

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