Riverhead Theater

37 West Main Street,
Riverhead, NY 11901

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Riverhead Theater

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The Capitol Theatre was erected by Robert E. Riley and opened on November 24, 1920. It was one of the finest movie houses in Suffolk County. By 1931, it had been renamed Riverhead Theatre. Closed in the 1960’s, it was demolished a few years later.

Contributed by Van Howell

Recent comments (view all 17 comments)

robboehm on September 9, 2011 at 6:33 pm

But my point is that two sides of the street can’t be odd numbered. The Suffolk and Riverhead have odd number addresses on CT. If a more reasonable address could be established we might have a better chance at a better Google image. I thought the Riverhead was closer to Roanoke Avenue. Then the location would be the open space next to the bank.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on September 10, 2011 at 9:52 am

The address for the Suffolk Theatre would appear to be wrong. It is listed as 11 West Main Street, but the Suffolk is on East Main Street on the even side of the street. Addresses for business around the Suffolk support this. 11 West Main is actually the address for the L.I. Science Center adjacent to the parking lot where I think the Riverhead Theatre stood. The street numbering is a bit strange in that it seems to skip a lot of numbers between lots, but works to support that assumption because the second store immediately to the right of the parking lot, Luisa’s Magic Scissors, has an address of 51 West Main Street.

I believe this is the correct site for two other reasons: The bend in the road just to the right side of the site is very similar to the one in the vintage photo posted earlier by Warren and the building to the left, visible in the American Classic Images pic from 1967, looks like it could be the same structure that currently houses the L.I. Science Center (except that there was siding on part of it in ‘67). It appears that the theater was set back a bit further than the adjacent building and that there was some sort of recessed entrance to that building behind the corner column – which has since been glassed in by the Science Center and extended a bit into the parking lot for an entrance vestibule. Just seems to make sense to my eye. The bend in the road is really what nails it for me. Of course, can’t be 100% sure, but I think the probability is very high.

As for the Suffolk Theatre, I think an address correction is in order.

moviegoer on October 12, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Here’s a working link to the vintage Capitol Theater Postcard

chelydra on February 24, 2013 at 10:08 pm

For what it’s worth, I bought a nice house a few years ago in Riverhead from the last of the local Rileys — it had been in the family since it was built in the 1920s. I can get in touch with the seller if anyone has any questions. She took all the remaining memorabilia (and her own memories) with her when she moved to another state, and she’d probably be delighted to share info and anecdotes. My own memories of the Riverhead Theater were that it had fallen on hard times by the late 1950s, and seemed to show mostly second-run double-features, B-movie westerns etc.. I think I may have gone there just once, probably in its last year or so. It was definitely located just past the bank, maybe right next door, around where the science place is now. The only colorful reminiscence I can offer is that a very cheerful madwoman used to dress up every day in a dark blue policewoman’s uniform, with a nice little hat, and stand on the corner outside the bank pretending to direct traffic, smiling and waving. She was always there, rain or shine, day after day, year and year, at least until 1960 or so. She wasn’t directly connected with the Rileys or their theater so far as I know, but she was a distinctive part of its environment.

robboehm on February 25, 2013 at 5:49 am

She wasn’t the only traffic director on LI. There was an elderly man in a baseball uniform on Rt 25A in Wading River.

rivest266 on October 9, 2013 at 1:58 pm

The grand opening ad from the County Review of November 19th, 1920 has been uploaded in the photo section for this theatre.

robboehm on July 8, 2014 at 12:23 am

Riley’s Capitol in Riverhead was sold in April, 1925. This was less than a year after they lost their Capitol in Babylon as a result of bankruptcy. The theatre was sold for a reported $100,000 but one of the Riley brothers purchased $20,000 stock in the new company which redecorated the premises and renamed it the Riverhead.

robboehm on March 26, 2015 at 5:48 pm

Added a photo around the time of closure.

robboehm on March 30, 2015 at 7:20 am

Upload photo of vintage postcard when it was the Capitol. Mentioned as a link in one of the comments but these links are tenuous. You’ll note that the Capitol had a vertical but no signboard; as Riverhead, the reverse. They also added the Riverhead name to the façade.

robboehm on May 12, 2015 at 1:33 pm

Also, re the Riverhead photo, presumably the theater wasn’t air conditioned since they were only going to reopen in October and were referring people to the Suffolk which, and I can vouch for it, was and the nearby Drive In.

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