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 669 comments)

PeterApruzzese
PeterApruzzese on January 11, 2014 at 8:50 pm

RIP Jeff Barker, friend and organist at the Lafayette Theatre from 2002 to 2013. Jeff passed away on December 31, 2013.

More info on Jeff and his career here: http://www.gstos.org/Jeff_Barker.htm

And a brief clip of Jeff speaking and playing from a few years ago: http://youtu.be/ZJ8kfbqL_LQ

ChasSmith
ChasSmith on January 11, 2014 at 9:01 pm

I didn’t know him, myself, but this is a shock nonetheless. Always appreciated his playing. Thank you, Peter — and for the links, as well.

bolorkay
bolorkay on February 17, 2014 at 3:38 pm

I know it’s way too early but, any thoughts as to what the Spring (weekend) Film Festival might bring ? Cabin feaver strikes again! R.I.P. Mr. Barker.

movieguy
movieguy on February 17, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Sad news about Jeff. Thee will be a tribute to him. When the Classics start in mid April. No firm date yet. No titles of the films. They will again be in DCP.

movieguy
movieguy on February 17, 2014 at 4:09 pm

March 3rd 1924 is the actual date and day the Lafayette Theatre opened for business. March 2nd Sunday. Will be the OFFICIAL 90th Anniversary celebration!

A historian will talk about Suffern in 1924 and show slides.A portion of the first film ever shown at The Lafayette will be screened. Who’s On First. The famous A&C Baseball routine will be preformed live on stage.

Then the 75th Anniversary Wizard Of Oz, will be shown in 3D! This 3D conversion, just looks AMAZING!

Price of admission. Just $.25 just like it was in 1924!

NO ADVANCE TICKETS WILL BE SOLD! Doors open at 1:00pm!

Get there EARLY as it is sure to be a SOLD OUT SHOW!

Oh a new Silver screen was installed in Dec 2013. It looks FANTASTIC!

movieguy
movieguy on February 17, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Feb 25 Tue and the 26th Wed. Will be a 2 night run of the BAMF Mountain Film Fest. Tickets are $19.00 and can be purchased at Ramsey Outdoor. As of today there is a good supply of tickets for both nights.

movieguy
movieguy on February 26, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Last nights(Tue 25th) BAMF Mountain Film Fest was SOLD OUT! IT was a great show with a very good selection of 8 films.Great door and raffle prizes. Many free shirts were thrown out into the crowd. Both in the orchestra and Balcony.

There are as of 10:45am this morning. 57 Tickets left for tonight’s show.Then can be purchased at Ramsey Outdoor on Rt 17.Any remaining tickets will be sold at the box office of the theatre. Doors open at 6:00pm tonight

movieguy
movieguy on February 26, 2014 at 3:53 pm

Tomorrow Thursday 27th. Will be the last screening of Robo-Cop. Starting Friday and running for ONE WEEK only. Will be the Sing Along version of the hit film Frozen.

movieguy
movieguy on March 11, 2014 at 2:47 pm

The 90th Anniversary Celebration at The Lafayette Theatre went extremely well. I got online at 11:25am. 95 minutes before the doors were to open. By 12:30pm there were about 500 people lined up. The doors to the theatre opened at 12:40. By 1:50pm 250-300 people were turned away because of such a HUGE turnout. Wizard Of Oz looked GREAT in 3D in the TRUE Silver Screen. There will be 2 more events. One in the spring. One in the fall. During the 90th year. Admission will be $.25.Details to come.

movieguy
movieguy on March 14, 2014 at 10:35 am

Here IS the Spring 2014 schedule of Saturday morning classics:

April 26th- The Hustler (1961) – starring Paul Newman & Jackie Gleason

May 3rd- The French Connection (1971) – starring Gene Hackman & Roy Schneider

May 10th- Laura (1944) – starring Gene Tierney & Dana Andrews

May 17th- City Lights (1931) – starring Charlie Chaplin with live organ accompaniment

May 24th- The Seven Year Itch (1955) – starring Marilyn Monroe & Tom Ewe

May 31st- Little Shop Of Horrors (1986) – starring Rick Moranis & Steve Martin

June 7th- Rebel Without A Cause (1955) – starring James Dean, Natalie Wood & Sal Mineo

June 14th- Oklahoma (1955) – starring Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones & Gloria Grahame

The May 17th show of City Lights. Will be a tribute to Jeffery Barker. He was the long time organist at the Lafayette. Who died in Dec 2013

Great line up this spring. So come on OUT not only for the classics. But the first run films as well!

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