John W. Engeman Theater

250 Main Street,
Northport, NY 11768

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Showing 1 - 25 of 52 comments

atmos on August 26, 2017 at 4:06 am

Alterations to theatre in 1950 by John and Drew Eberson.

robboehm on April 3, 2015 at 7:46 am

Additional exterior of current façade uploaded.

robboehm on March 27, 2015 at 1:28 pm

Photos of the exterior and interior when it was the Northport and previously linked by Ed Solero in the comments area uploaded to the photo section.

robboehm on March 21, 2015 at 1:39 pm

I’ve added a current photo of the façade.

robboehm on July 13, 2014 at 12:22 pm

According to an article on theatre in Northport, N.Y. in Newsday for July 13, 2014, the cost of the conversion from movies to stage cost $3.7 million. The 1950 renovation which I alluded to in an earlier posting, cost $100,000. The article quotes the current seating capacity as 400.

robboehm on December 13, 2013 at 7:28 pm

What was the condemnation referred to in the heading?

Bway on February 2, 2012 at 10:24 am

The theater’s current name (if open) is the name that is used for the theater. That’s to be consistent on the site, and it’s the policy.

Bloop on January 31, 2012 at 3:44 pm

To the site administrators : this was a busy local neighborhood MOVIE theater for almost 5 DECADES. It should not be represented here, as a “performing arts theatre” This site is not called “Performing Arts Treasures. Com” Please address this.

robboehm on January 4, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Looking through old issues of the Smithtown Messenger there were several references to the Northport being renovated while still open in the Spring/Summer of 1950. Among the renovations were the installation of air conditioning, a remodeling of the lobby (necessitating the use of an alternate entrance)and upgrading of the sound and rest rooms.

robboehm on March 11, 2011 at 5:37 am

In theory the last name standing is the CT rule (not always observed) and as you note problematic. As a Long Islander I know the new name and access it as such. It could also be argued that one would look up the name of the community and try the entries there hoping a specific AKA would appear.

Bloop on March 10, 2011 at 9:16 pm

1) This should be listed as the NORTHPORT Theater! It’s a decades old neighborhood movie house with a LONG HISTORY dating back to the 1930s!!!!! (Hysterical hyperbole)!!!!! It should not be listed as it’s latest incarnation AS A PLAYHOUSE from the last 10 years or so!! This makes it “invisible” to posters , researchers and fans!!!! Please let’s fix this. A theater such as this should have hundreds of postings, recollections and warm memories. This is a huge error. Saps, longislandmovies,ed solerno,Bway, Lost Memory, Warren G. back me up here! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mortonman on July 1, 2009 at 8:00 am

I went to the Northport Theatre, now the John Engeman theatre in memory of a fallen soldier in Iraq, to see Crazy for You. The place is quite nice. The lobby is more like a classy cocktail lounge in a NYC hotel than a cheesy, popcorn counter in a greasy old movie theatre. They actually bulldozed the interior of the theatre to start from scratch. Now 400 seats, the orchestra sweeps up in stadium formate to where the balcony used to be. All seats get a great view. They installed $400K sound system, and all the singers have rather expensive wireless mics, just like on Broadway. The “cup holders” at each seat hold the cocktail glasses quite nicely. Even the wine glasses are stemless so they fit nicely into the seats.
The actors were all equity, and the choreography was fantastic. The owners actually produce the show — they do not simply play host to touring companies. They have their own scenic studios in Lake Ronkonkema, and the movement of scenes was silent and rapid.
I recommend this venue for a fine evening of entertainment.

Bway on April 19, 2009 at 10:00 am

Here’s a bird’s eye view of the Northport:

View link

Bway on February 9, 2009 at 12:49 pm

It’s not changed yet. Perhaps emailing the Webmasters. They probably don’t read all the comments in every theater to keep up with this.

Bway on July 9, 2008 at 8:30 pm

There’s a commercial currently running on cable channels like News 12 that are ads for the John Engemann Theater, and it has some nice interior shots of the place.

Alto on July 7, 2008 at 10:29 am

As noted in a prior post, this venue is now known as “John W. Engeman Theater [at Northport]”.
Its official URL is:

wiltamuthl on March 29, 2008 at 7:31 am

When I was in middle school in 1992 we took a field trip to see 1492 Conquest of Paradise. We walked downtown and has a private showing for the school.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on December 29, 2007 at 11:25 pm

Here’s another long post, this time from the theater’s website:

Theater History

Northport’s first movie house was built in 1912 at 256 Main Street, but movies were only one of its uses: Its grand opening included a vaudeville show, and over the years the space was used for high school commencement ceremonies, political rallies, children’s recitals and even basketball games, when space in the building was leased by the school system for use as a gymnasium. The early movies were silent films, accompanied by a pianist. Admission to evening shows was 50 cents for adults, 25 cents for children. The Northport trolley added an evening trip in 1913, so that East Northport residents could get home after the movies. Talkies didn’t come to Northport until about 1930, when a local businessman leased the theater and installed new projectors.

But two years later, on April 19, 1932, the theater caught fire, after a blaze started in the adjoining Chevrolet dealership. The responding fire departments found too little water pressure in the hydrants to fight the fire, and water had to be hauled up from the harbor by the truckload. To no avail – the building was a complete loss. The following August, the village board voted major improvements in the water system.

The first plan for replacing the theater was to rebuild on the same site, but theater builder William McNeil began constructing one on the adjoining property even as the old site was being cleared for a new structure. After much to and fro, Prudential Playhouses Inc. settled on the McNeil site, at 248-250 Main Street, that is occupied by the present theater building.

The new Northport Theater, with 754 seats, was opened with speeches and great ceremony on Nov. 23, 1932. Much was made of the fact that it was of fireproof construction, with major components of its electrical system isolated in a fireproof room in the basement. Uniformed ushers were recruited from the Northport high school, to be selected by the superintendent of schools. The theater would offer “the latest and most popular pictures on the cinema screen today,” a local paper noted. The initial attraction was “Sherlock Holmes,” starring Clive Brook and Ernest Torrence, which had opened in New York City only a week earlier.

The building erected on site of the old theater was used for a lunch room under various ownerships, including use by the Northport U.S.O. during World War II. In the 1970s it was converted into two stores.

In 1950 the Northport Theater, still operated by Associated Prudential Theaters, underwent major alterations: Most noticeably the stainless steel marquee was added. The lobby was remodeled, new seats installed, stage curtains and wall coverings replaced and a modern air-conditioning system installed. The cost of renovations was put at $100,000 — about as much as construction of the building had cost 18 years earlier.

As film industry economics and consumer tastes changed to favor more central theater locations, control of the Northport Theater eventually shifted to United Artists Eastern Theatres, which for years offered second-run movies at cut-rate prices. At 99 cents, later raised to $1.25, movie-going in Northport in the early 1980s was a bargain. But UA finally closed the theater in 1996, and a new owner’s plans to renovate the building for a reopening in 1997 were frustrated when the interior was vandalized. The Northport Theater reopened in 1999, but failed to make adequate commercial headway.

In 2005, the theater was purchased by Dennis Tannenbaum, a resident and local businessman, who in turn sold it to long time Huntington resident and entrepreneur Kevin O’Neill and his wife, Patti, on June 30, 2006. In tribute to Patti’s brother, Chief Warrant Officer Four John William Engeman, who was killed in Iraq on May 14, 2006, the O’Neill’s decided to rename the theater the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on December 29, 2007 at 7:44 pm

The orchestra floor must have been raised a bit with the expansion of the basement space. It seems hard to believe that a formal balcony could have existed with the ceiling height depicted in the recent photo I posted above. Thanks for the info, saps.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on December 29, 2007 at 7:15 am

Here’s the text of the NY Times article of 6/27/07, link posted above.


ON Thursday in this harborside village, nine professional actors are scheduled to perform “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” before a full house in the renovated theater here at 250 Main Street.

The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport is the latest and most ambitious reincarnation of the space (the original opened around 1912) and an attractive new draw to this village’s bustling Main Street.

Downtown Northport, with walkable blocks of restaurants, gift and antique shops and waterfront parks, is often held up as an example of “smart growth,” but built long before that term came into vogue. Charming Victorians and colonials with wraparound porches line many of the streets and the cliffs overlooking the water, and the tracks of the Northport trolley, which once took early 20th-century theatergoers home after the show, are still visible on Main Street.

Kevin O’Neill, a former Treasury-bond trader, is behind the theater’s $2.5 million renovation, which was completed in seven months.

Mr. O’Neill is betting that suburban couples with children and busy weekends will pay $55 a ticket to see Manhattan-based professionals perform in musicals, and $45 to see them in plays, in their own backyard.

The theater is decked out with more suburban comforts than the usual city space, including a piano lounge and bar called the Green Room, which will open about two hours before a performance. The stadium-style seating (no obstructed views) features 402 seats, all with cup holders for that drink carried in from the lounge.

Thursday’s performance is sold out, and the theater has already sold 2,500 season tickets ($355 for seven shows), Mr. O’Neill said.

Mr. O’Neill, 44, expects most single and season ticket buyers to be much like himself and his wife, Patti, who live in nearby Lloyd Harbor with their four children.

“A night in Manhattan when you figure all the costs,” for tickets, parking, dinner and a baby sitter, can run $600, he said. Perhaps more important, it’s a lot of time” out of the weekend, a period when children are busy with activities. “Our goal is to expose people to theater of the caliber of Broadway that’s right here on Long Island,” he said.

There are plenty of amateur theaters on Long Island, but the John W. Engeman is one of only three that conform to the rules of the Actors Equity Association, the union for actors and stage managers. The other two, the Gateway Playhouse in Bellport and the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, are near the Hamptons.

The Northport theater is in western Suffolk County, near the Nassau border, and will be the only year-round professional theater on the Island. But it will of course be competing with Broadway, a little more than an hour away (without traffic).

The building, originally the site of a community theater used for silent movies and vaudeville-style productions, was rebuilt as a movie house in 1932 after a fire. It showed films for more than 70 years, but in 2005 it was returned to a community theater by the owner, Dennis Tannenbaum. He wanted to renovate the theater, but found “the cost became too prohibitive,” he said recently.

Mr. O’Neill came across the theater as an investor in the online marketing company Mr. Tannenbaum, who used the Web site as a ticketing agent, decided against redesigning the old stage theater, Mr. O’Neill began thinking about buying it himself, he said.

On Mother’s Day last year, while Mr. O’Neill was considering the purchase, his brother-in-law, John W. Engeman, 45, a soldier in Iraq, was killed by a bomb that exploded near his Humvee. Mr. Engeman had taken part in high school theater while growing up in East Northport, and later in the Army while stationed in Germany. His death clinched the decision for the O’Neills.

“The next day we decided to buy it and name it after him,” Mr. O’Neill said. He declined to disclose the price, but Suffolk County records show that the theater sold last September for $1.2 million.

The renovation involved replacing the leaky roof and carting away 58 tons of old roofing materials. The marquee will have a replica of the steel “Northport” sign that was on the theater for decades and was a fixture on Main Street and also an enlarged copy of Mr. Engeman’s signature.

To handle auditions and programming, Mr. O’Neill brought in Richard Dolce, a 38-year-old lawyer, as artistic director. Mr. Dolce has lifelong experience in theater; his family started and has operated the Broadhollow Theater Company, with spaces in Lindenhurst, East Islip and Elmont, for 31 years.

To conform to the rules set by Actors Equity, the Northport theater needed more space and specific accommodations for actors.

Mara Brothers Commercial Construction was the contractor on the job, expanding the basement from a six-foot long boiler room and utility room to a corridor 25 feet long that houses the 12-seat orchestra pit, costume storage, and four new dressing rooms. Each one has a full bath and light-bulb-lined mirrors.

The redesign of the theater, by Hoffman Grayson Architects of Huntington, focuses on comforts for the audience, including two men’s and two women’s bathrooms (10 stalls, compared with 3 in the old theater, which had 688 seats), and a separate bathroom accessible for those with disabilities.

The new stage is 31 feet deep. Back-lighted murals of pastoral scenes, a memorable feature over the last 70 years of the theater’s movie-house history, have been added to the six already preserved on the walls inside. A steel lattice structure above the stage supports the lighting, sound system and curtain controls.

The proscenium arch around the stage was enlarged, and a crystal chandelier hangs above the seats, adding to muted light from four restored stained-glass rosette fixtures in the ceiling. The new cherry wood bar replaces a concession stand dating to the 1980s, when the building was a $1.25-a-ticket movie house for second-run films.

A black-tie dedication ceremony on June 16 was attended by about 380 local politicians and residents and Broadway performers.

Mr. Dolce said there would be summer theater classes and traditional performances for children, like “The Wizard of Oz,” starting in the fall. The goal is to encourage widespread use so that Suffolk residents identify with the theater. “We’re also trying to sell the theater itself as a place they want to go,” Mr. Dolce said.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on December 29, 2007 at 7:08 am

Northport had a traditional seating design, the orchestra sloped down from the rear to the front, on one level. There was a formal balcony, which is also where the mens’s room was located.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on December 28, 2007 at 7:46 pm

This photo of the Northport’s interior appeared in the recent NY Times review of the current production of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE – a musical play adaptation of the classic Capra film. The play was not particularly well reviewed, but the critic did make note of the theatre’s gorgeous restoration. Looking at the photo, it appears as if the original seating has been replaced with a raked “stadium style” arrangement. It also seems that the new stage takes up some of the former seating closest to where the screen was. The intro above notes that 85 seats are located in the “balcony,” but it appears there is no formal balcony. Was the rear seating in the theatre always raked as it currently exists?

Bloop on September 21, 2007 at 2:53 pm

I think, it was shaved down to a “PG” for the double bill with “Grease”….in 1979? I actually saw the “…Fever” / “Laura Mars…” bill at Larkfield in East Northport. I saw “Mad Monster Party” at Northport in 1969 when I was in second grade ,at a Kiddie Matinee! Northport was a great theatre and seemed well kept till the end (or at least until I stopped going altogether by 1985/86) . Like I said before; a many-generations-old neighborhood theatre like Northport should have more postings, stories and memories on here.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on August 20, 2007 at 9:26 pm

Hey Bloop… That ad is from ‘79? Interesting that the “R” rated version of “Saturday Night Fever” is on the late-run double feature here. I remember that the film was re-issued in '78 at some point edited down for a “PG” rating in order to draw a wider audience. I’m a little surprised that UA was able to get a print of the original version for this engagement – though I guess with the “R” rated “Eyes of Laura Mars” on the same bill it makes sense.