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 880 comments)

Sam83 on September 23, 2016 at 3:53 pm

$2.00 admission? How are they going to recover the cost?

Sure wish they still had the October Horrorthon. I miss the good old days. Sigh.

bolorkay on September 24, 2016 at 6:36 am

Totally agree with you, Sam83 re: the Horrorthon. Those fall evenings spent with the Hammer and AIP classics were the perfect entry into the Halloween/Fall season. They will be missed to be sure. But, I guess the"almighty dollar" rules!

hotwaterbottle on September 26, 2016 at 9:54 am

This may come as a surprise to you, but the “almighty dollar” is what keeps the theatre open. The HorrorThon you so lovingly remember was always a money loser for Nelson & Pete. They NEVER made a profit on them. They only did it because they WANTED to. They could have easily played just one film, or no film at all. And because Friday/Saturday/Sunday was tied up they had only a second or third run feature to play during the week, which means little to no business during the week.

$2.00 admission? They would have to fill the place every Saturday morning. If Pete & Nelson couldn’t do it when they quit, It’s just not going to happen now. And don’t count on the seniors coming out like they did before, when it was free to them. That’s over. Everyone pays $2.00 to get in, senior or not. Even at $2 bucks the management will hear a lot of complaints from the seniors about “why can’t we get in for free anymore?”

movieguy on September 26, 2016 at 9:59 am

It is a little ridiculous that the seniors possibly may complain about having to pay two bucks. You getting to sit in a beautiful historic grand movie palace. Do the seniors everything through the fact, the expense of paying the licensing Fees to the studios. The cost of running the movie the electricity, paying the staff. Would they give away, food if they had a restaurant for free? Would they cook a whole bunch of meals in their houses and give them away for free? I really doubt it

mdvoskin on September 26, 2016 at 10:29 am

I still want to know, for each title, whether they will be showing DCP or Bluray.

I can watch Blurays at home. It’s not the $2, which honestly is a great value, but for me it is getting up early and driving 30 miles.

hotwaterbottle on September 26, 2016 at 11:01 am

The seniors don’t care about licensing fees, the cost of fresh popcorn, or the historical value of the place. They had a free show to go to on Saturday morning and now that’s over. Everyone pays. Some of them would grumble if admission was 25 cents.

They probably haven’t disclosed which shows are Blu or DCP because if, for example, Goldfinger was shown from the Bluray, would you go? If they don’t tell you ahead of time, the only way to find out is to go and see it. You could call ahead, but whoever answers may not know if it’s Blu or DCP.

mdvoskin on September 26, 2016 at 11:15 am

If they do not disclose DCP or Bluray, I for one will definitely not go. If they are running Bluray of something that a DCP exists, I would begin to wonder if they are actually licensing the shows.

Sam83 on September 26, 2016 at 1:51 pm

Not that I am defending the seniors here but some of them may be on a very limited budget where every dollar counts. I can sympathize with those in that position.

But then again a show cannot go on if it keeps operating at a loss.

Sam83 on September 26, 2016 at 1:55 pm

A balance needs to be set. Perhaps the seniors pay $2 while others pay $10. Movies need to be DCP though.

And they should try to select classic movies that will bring a lot of folks (James Bond, Classic Horror, etc). Some movies may be rare but if they have low interest, not many will show up.

Sam83 on September 26, 2016 at 1:57 pm

Just remember – one day we will all be seniors. Will we be complaining about a $2 admission at that time? Maybe. LOL.

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