Suffolk Theater

118 E. Main Street,
Riverhead, NY 11901

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robboehm on March 26, 2015 at 2:17 pm

New exterior photo of when theater was in limbo uploaded.

rivest266 on October 9, 2013 at 10:10 pm

I uploaded an grand opening ad in the photo section.

robboehm on March 21, 2013 at 4:46 pm

It’s interesting to read the Times article about the condition of the theater before renovations. It seems, to my recollection, that for years before the current ownership, the keystone portion of the marquee (which is no longer illuminated) was lit day and night. Wonder who paid LIPA?

robboehm on February 25, 2013 at 10:42 pm

I go there all the time and have no problem with the sound level. If you do they have infra red hearing devices at no cost (there is a deposit, however).

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on February 25, 2013 at 10:38 pm

You need a speaker or you can’t hear the movie. :)

robboehm on February 25, 2013 at 1:44 pm

I think they’re taking the wrong route re design which has chairs and tables on tiers on the main floor, like Studio 54 in NYC. Already sounds like they’re going upscale. Altho' a smaller venue I like Westhampton Beach Performing Arts. They have name performers, children’s programs, workshops and four series of independent films (in the summer, with a speaker).

chelydra on February 25, 2013 at 7:39 am

Sorry to lapse into such long-windedness, but other old brainstorms are coming out of hibernation… The general idea of all these theater restorations is both to revive downtowns and liven up the bleak cultural landscape, to kill two birds with one stone — but why not try for three or four birds while we’re at it? An even bigger problem is the drastic cuts in school art and music education, so that concerned parents of talented kids have to hire private tutors and that leaves out any families on a tight budget (which is most of us). Wouldn’t it be a lot more fair and a lot more productive to organize an informal “public-private partnership” in which artists and musicians were recruited to teach in summer programs (relaxed or intensive, depending on the prevailing mood), dipping into library/school budgets (not too deeply) to provide the basic necessities? Venezuela’s Bolivar Youth Orchestra, and Japan’s Suzuki music education show that relatively modest investments can bring huge returns. Drama and visual arts too (as well as creative writing) can benefit from this kind of approach — and what does this have to do with the two cool old theaters in downtown Riverhead, and similar projects in several other towns? Everything! What’s missing from all these Long Island theater-restorations is home-grown talent. Three or four big events (and maybe a dozen little events) per year could give young creative types something to work towards… art exhibits in the lobbies, plays and concerts in the auditoriums, maybe newsletters featuring creative writing alongside the fund-raising and PR stuff… Synergy, synergy, synergy… but also, as Henry David Thoreau liked to say, “Simplify, simplify, simplify!” Sometimes a whole lot of seemingly disconnected and insoluble problems can get connected up and solved together in simple, sensible synergies… In this case, the key just might be providing inexpensive incentives for first-rate (and solid second-rate) arts professionals to spend some time as resident teachers in pleasant surroundings… and they could be the motor that drives the cultural conveyor belt, delivering great home-grown events and giving this “downtown revival” thing a real heart and soul… Okay, maybe that’s enough… I’ll check in again in another eight years or so…

chelydra on February 25, 2013 at 4:49 am

So it seems it’s finally happening, and as of last night the marquee was blazing as never before, with just two big neon letters dimmed out — not bad! I was going to correct the write-up a bit, but my posts in 2004-05 did that already, if anyone cares to dig back to the first page of comments. (I have since become a Riverhead homeowner, by the way.) Here’s a thought that’s been festering or fermenting for many years: with all these theater preservation projects in communities all over Long Island, why not try to get a coalition going, and establish a circuit, where offbeat films and live acts could bounce from town to town, staying a night or two or three in each spot? How hard would that be? The possibilities are endless: neo-vaudeville, folk and show music, maybe the occasional light opera, jazz, cabaret, country-western, B&W classics from Greta Garbo and Charlie Chaplin and Fritz Lang and Alfred Hitchcock, maybe a classy midnight burlesque show, all the things each theater wants for itself but probably can’t easily attract/book on its own. The cost-effectiveness would be vastly improved, and if an act flopped in one town, maybe the other five or six would make up for it. It seems crazy to conceive of all these costly projects as competing businesses, when the whole idea is to use restored theaters to keep downtowns alive and bring a bit of culture (high or low or middle, or a bit of each) to the local folks. I don’t think any discussion of the Suffolk Theater is complete without a mention of the even older and even more remarkable Vail-Levitt music hall right around the corner — these two amazing venues have been competing furiously for volunteers, donations, and public sector commitments for about twenty-five years now, and the competition has tended to undermine both projects, though not fatally as it turns out. If both of them could somehow be fully alive, that would be amazing. (The old music hall was already shut down down before the Suffolk Theater opening, I think, so Riverhead was never supporting both at once.) Even more amazing would be if downtown Riverhead were born again without losing what makes it great — the affordable, down-to-earth, gritty quality that makes the place an island of reality is the midst of the elitist never-never-land of the East End. If the downtown revival could happen without everything getting boutiqued and bougeoized, that would be a miracle… but the Riverhead Blues Festival just might point the way… and then if we could bulldoze Route 58 and let it go back to woods and farms… who knows?

robboehm on February 23, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Big hoopla about the opening including a party where guests are encouraged to dress in 1930’s attire. Go to Suffolk

robboehm on January 10, 2013 at 8:57 pm

According to the marquee, the Suffolk will reopen on March 2nd as a performance space.

robboehm on October 27, 2012 at 10:33 pm

The owners of the Suffolk have been granted tax abatements for ten years to help defray the several million dollar renovation cost of the premises. Work is being delayed by additional work so the targeted opening of December 2012 may be pushed to the spring of 2013.

wally 75
wally 75 on June 10, 2012 at 1:28 am

Great I have been in many Carmike Theatres when I lived in GA. Good company…

robboehm on June 9, 2012 at 3:26 am

From what I’ve seen on CT Carmike is an agressive company and, currently, they are not in the northeast.

wally 75
wally 75 on June 8, 2012 at 8:37 pm

You’re right about Islip…Cable V who owns Clearview Theatres is selling them off..I hope at least someone from this country buys them…have you heard anything? Thanks

robboehm on June 8, 2012 at 1:32 pm

It’s independent. Clearview wouldn’t want it. They deal with multiple screens. They are supposedly looking for other LI locations. Shame the Islip needs major remediation work for some sort of problem. That would be a good site.

wally 75
wally 75 on June 8, 2012 at 5:34 am

Thanks Ed, that is what I was talking about. I don’t get confused, I know both theatres very well..Back to the utube video that started this conversation…pitch or slope what ever you want to call it, is there..again watch the floor where it meets the wall and follow it down…More important..who do ya’ll think will buy Clearview Cinemas?

robboehm on June 8, 2012 at 4:28 am

But the upward slope was only for the first seven or so rows so the people wouldn’t have to crane their necks up to see the screen.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on June 7, 2012 at 8:25 pm

I think that Wally was merely pointing out that there have been cinemas known to operate without the usual downward slope of seating towards the screen. I might add that there have even been theaters where the seats sloped UP towards the screen!

wally 75
wally 75 on June 7, 2012 at 8:22 am

The Squire was a car dealer show room before it was a theatre…The main floor was and is flat even after they diced it up…That being said…if you look at the youtube again, and look at where the floor and wall meet you can see the floor pitch down…Also some isles are not the same pitch as the seating area, you can see on the clip where they are standing..I don’t think you rule out movies ever being played there..

robboehm on June 7, 2012 at 3:15 am

As you can see from the youtube video, the main floor is now level, as I mentioned previously. I really think they are limiting their options by taking this action since the building is long and sight lines could be problematic. Obviously, movies will not longer be an option. And there is talk of constructing a movie theatre in town.

CSWalczak on February 14, 2012 at 6:48 am

Click on the Photos tab above.

wally 75
wally 75 on February 14, 2012 at 6:45 am

Where are the pictures…

Jeff M.
Jeff M. on February 14, 2012 at 3:02 am

I have just posted 5 pictures of the Suffolk Theatre. These were taken in January of 1995 not long after the town acquired the house with plans to restore it. It has been too many years since I spoke with someone from the town so my facts may be somewhat sketchy. I remember being told that, in order to create a full stage, they were planning on moving the proscenium arch into the auditorium some 20 or 30 feet which, in my opinion would have ruined everything. Apparently that was easier at the time than acquiring the land behind the house. For its years the house was in very good shape with very little damage. Only the upper level lounge had severe water damage from a leaking roof. The town did fix that and the front wall of the building.

robboehm on October 13, 2011 at 1:31 am

Atlantis is attracting great crowds in Riverhead. They even built a hotel next to it. In the redevelopment of town there is also the plan for a multiplex. Restaurants are doing well, some because of Atlantis but most, I would think, because of the courts. Something by the expressway would be ideal. There was originally supposed to be one up by Riverhead Centre. It’s all such a crap shot. Certain areas, despite high population density can’t seem to support a movie theatre. Patchogue immediately comes to mind. Then, in other areas, they overbuild, two theatres in Coram and one in Port Jeff only a short distance away.

moviegoer on October 12, 2011 at 10:43 pm

I too have wondered just how many performing arts theaters Long Island needs. Perhaps it’s true that they rely entirely on their local community rather than the Island in general (clearly nobody is going from Yaphank to see a show at the Engmann in Northport, for example) but I live smack in between the Patchogue and the Gateway Playhouse (less than 5 from minutes from both) and I’ve never been to either. CM and Boulton are both also easily accessible to me on the south shore.

Four theaters and I’ve never been to any of them. Five if you count WHB. They just never seem to have any performances that interest me. I did once try to buy tickets to see Colin Hay at the Boulton but it was already sold out.

The Suffolk will make 6 theaters within less than a 30-minute drive and will be about equally as far from me as the Boulton. Assuming they ever have a performance that interests me, the cabaret-style seating would make it the most appealing to me of any of the six theaters within range (though the sheer proximity of the Patchogue -and the ability to walk to any of 6 or 7 bars after a show- would probably still trump it for me).

But I would have much rather seen it restored as a movie theater. The Suffolk was probably in a bad location for it because Riverhead is a bit remote, but I continue to believe that in the right location a single-screen show palace type of theater could work, even out here in suburbia.