Suffolk Theater

118 E. Main Street,
Riverhead, NY 11901

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robboehm on January 20, 2022 at 12:42 pm

The theatre has a new Executive Director who wants to segue from the dinner theatre concept to a full-fledged non-profit performing arts center.

Plans have been submitted for a five-story addition to the back of the theatre which will allow for the expansion of the stage, provide wings and a backstage area with a green room and dressing rooms. There would be retail space on the ground floor and 28 market rate rental apartments above.

(The back of the building is on a Municipal Parking lot. The last thing Riverhead needs is rental apartments since a half dozen new buildings have risen during the past couple of years.)

The Town has received a ten-million-dollar grant for the revitalization of downtown. The Suffolk Theatre will benefit from this.

(I don’t see that tearing down a bunch of empty stores and putting in a park is going to revitalize Riverhead. Other than the theatre and the Atlantis Aquarium all the town has to offer is a handful of restaurants.)

The theatre is positioned directly opposite of the Town Square Project which will link Main Street to the Peconic Riverfront.

robboehm on March 14, 2019 at 10:54 am

Regal deal must really be dead. There is petition being circulated to get a national movie chain to build a theater in Riverhead.

robboehm on February 25, 2019 at 12:43 pm

The Riverhead Center sign announcing the forthcoming Regal Cinemas (see photo section) is no longer there. Did the sign meet with a problem or has the deal fallen through? This has been back and forth for over a year with Regal, the owner of the site and the town. Seemingly all the zoning problems had been overcome. In 2001 a deal to have a multiplex at the Riverhead Tanger Outlets also fell through. The town approved, but Tanger did not and chose a retailer to fill the space. The Tanger folk did allow a theater at the Commack outlet they subsequently built.

robboehm on February 8, 2019 at 6:43 am

The theater now provides a spectacular venue for weddings and other events. See photos uploaded from their site.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on January 10, 2019 at 7:49 pm

Rob, you the man. Thanks for staying on top of these developments…

robboehm on January 10, 2019 at 12:45 pm

At the beginning of negotiations the leasing agent wanted Regal to also upgrade the facade of the balance of the stores in the Plaza. Time will tell if that happens or whether the theater actually gets built.

robboehm on January 9, 2019 at 2:32 pm

Regal had announced a date when they would have a presence at the Sunrise Mall in Massapequa, presumably in the space vacated by Walmart since there was really no room for a free standing building. They didn’t follow through on that. They must have realized that the area was already saturated with two multiplexes in nearby Farmingdale. The closest theaters to Riverhead now are Westhampton Beach, probably eight miles, and Mattituck and Hampton Bays which would be further.

robboehm on January 9, 2019 at 12:34 pm

After some years of negotiations Riverhead will, once again, have a dedicated movie theater. A section of the Riverhead Plaza will be demolished and a free standing, 10 screen, Regal Theater, seating 1,490, will be erected. Two things allowed this to happen: zoning was changed to permit erection of a theater on other than Main Street (location of the Suffolk and the former, demolished Riverhead) and Walmart relocated offering up a large space with ample parking at the Riverhead Plaza. The signage is up announcing the coming theater but no date has been announced and no demolition has begun.

As an aside, Peconic Bay Medical Center leases a section of the parking lot for its employees and buses them to their facility some distance away. Wonder how that will play out.

robboehm on September 5, 2016 at 6:02 pm

According to a current ad on Facebook: “A 350 seat Art Deco theater newly restored as a state of the art performance venue.”

That quite a drop from the original 1,012 seats and the 800 shown on the site.

robboehm on April 17, 2016 at 5:50 pm

Re my earlier comment. Went to a play at Studio 54 the other night, traditional seating restored.

fwkhall on April 17, 2016 at 5:44 pm

Dear Cheldyra: Robert Riley was my Grandfather’s brother and so my Mother’s Uncle. Family oral history has always said that Uncle Rob built the Riverhead and other LI theaters so it was nice to see you confirm that. If you could, as you said, put us in touch with any of our Riley cousins that would be truely wonderful. many thanks, Frank

robboehm on February 11, 2016 at 12:14 pm

Some discussion about building a multiplex on County Route 58 where Walmart used to be. Plans for another theater further north fell through years ago. Currently zoning only permits a theater to be built on Main Street in the heart of town.

robboehm on February 8, 2016 at 2:29 pm

What we need now are current interior photos. I understand the main floor is cabaret seating a la Studio 54.

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on February 8, 2016 at 12:12 pm

Some excellent views of the Suffolk’s marquee and entrance turn up in the first episode of Season Two of the cable TV series, “Orange Is the New Black.” Amusingly, two young girls bribe someone to buy them tickets for an R-Rated movie.

robboehm on March 26, 2015 at 7:17 am

New exterior photo of when theater was in limbo uploaded.

rivest266 on October 9, 2013 at 2:10 pm

I uploaded an grand opening ad in the photo section.

robboehm on March 21, 2013 at 9:46 am

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 2:42 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 2:38 pm

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

robboehm on February 25, 2013 at 5:44 am

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 24, 2013 at 11:39 pm

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 24, 2013 at 8:49 pm

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 7:19 am

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 12:57 pm

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

robboehm on October 27, 2012 at 2:33 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.