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 746 comments)

dickneeds111
dickneeds111 on March 13, 2015 at 9:08 am

Hey Movieguy, Why don’t you take your movie advertising and put it in the local newspaper or ask people to go to the theatre website and see what is playing. Most theatres are playing the same flicks at the same time. We have a small twin cinema here and there ads are on the theatre’s outside Marquee or on line. Stop this repeat nonsense.

mdvoskin
mdvoskin on March 13, 2015 at 9:56 am

Hey Movieguy, that is old news. The Lafayette emailed me that information yesterday, as it did everyone who signs up for their weekly programming announcements.

JeffS
JeffS on March 13, 2015 at 10:35 am

Stop the advertising please. This is not the place for advertisements.

movieguy
movieguy on March 31, 2015 at 9:53 am

There are some special events coming up at the theatre this Month! The Cassic series starts April 11.Doors open at 11:00 A.M. Full list will be posted Soon. The first movie will be Good Will Hunting. As tribute is payed to Robin Willians. The Graduate will screen on April 18.

The Wild and Senic Film Featival will take place on Earth Day April 22nd. A special treat in coordination with the local restaurants you can buy a “Pinic dinner” and eat the meal at the theatre.

markp
markp on March 31, 2015 at 4:49 pm

Too bad Im working on the 18th or I would have made the 70 mile trek to the theatre to see The Graduate. It was the first movie I ever saw with my first girlfriend (who sadly passed at the young age of 40 in 2000) and was the very first movie I ran as a projectionist some 39 years ago.

movieguy
movieguy on April 21, 2015 at 8:47 am

Tomorrow Wed the 22nd, Earth Day. The Wild and Scenic film festival will take place. Doors open at 6:30pm. Films begin at 7:30p. You can go to a local restaurant and take a meal to go and “Dine in” at the theatre!

The program runs from 7:30pm to just a little after 10:00pm

It WILL be a fun and educational evening.

JeffS
JeffS on April 21, 2015 at 8:56 am

Since when is food and drink allowed in the theater? This is a serious no-no in any theater I’ve ever been too, including the Lafayette in the past.

movieguy
movieguy on April 22, 2015 at 6:01 am

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 8:18 am

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
movieguy on April 23, 2015 at 11:17 am

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.

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