The 350 seat Suffolk Theater is a unique Art Deco movie theater located on Main Street in historic downtown Riverhead, Long Island. R Thomas Short, of the New York firm, Harde and Short, was the original architect. Mr. Short's legacy includes eleven movie theaters on Long Island. Notably, The Suffolk Theater is the last remaining movie house built by R Thomas Short and is also the last remaining large art deco theater on Long Island. The theater was built as a National Recovery Act project for the Century Theater circuit chain.The Suffolk Theater opened on December 30, 1933. According to newspapers of the day, more than 2000 people attended the opening night festivities and it was hailed as "Long Island's prettiest and most complete playhouse." An opening review in The Riverhead News on January 5, 1934 stated "No matter which way one turns, there is luxury and comfort, this is exceptionally true in the reception corridor and ladies room, as well as in the entrance lobby." Additionally, the theater was also hailed as "the Radio City Music Hall of Long Island."
During World War II, the Suffolk Theater was an official issuing agent for U.S. war bonds. Various organizations including the long Island Farm Bureau regularly used the theater for special events and meetings. The theater did, in fact, enliven the town and was its central attraction for many years.Unfortunately changes in shopping habits, a shifting economy and the birth of the multiplex, forced The Suffolk Theater to close in 1987. The theater was for sale from 1987 until 1994 when the Town of Riverhead purchased the theater. In 1996, cinematographer, Keith DiNielli and producer Jeff Bassetti, filmed the movie "Changeover" in The Suffolk Theater. "Changeover" is set in 1978, and revolves around the closing of The Suffolk Theater due to the increasing popularity of the multiplex, and also explored how the closing impacted the lives of its young employees.
The mission is to re-establish the cinema/ playhouse tradition in downtown. The last five years has been a fascinating restoration process of the Art Deco cinema space into a full- service performing arts center. The theater will be providing diverse programming for all ages, from live entertainment, music and plays to movies and catered affairs. Programming onstage at the Suffolk Theater will range from Country to Comedy - from Classical to Contemporary - the very best touring artists available - our goal is to bring a broad range of performing artists to the Suffolk Theater stage that will appeal to every resident and visitor to the east end of Long Island.
The Suffolk Theater's state of the art marquee, seen by over 15,000 people daily and has become an information center and part of the identity of Main Street, The theater itself is projected to bring more than 4,000 visitors to downtown Riverhead weekly.Riverhead, Long Island, NY is strategically situated and easily accessible to attract audiences from a broad geographic area as well as second home owners heading further east for weekends. Identified as both an historic district and an arts district, Riverhead is poised to come back as a vibrant center of activity. East End Arts' Gallery and School of the Arts and Suffolk Theater are situated across the street from one another on Main Street. They have already formed a cohesive partnership on programming for 2013 and beyond.