08/05/13 4:55pm
08/05/2013 4:55 PM
Downtown Riverhead, Suffolk Theater, East End Arts

BARBARELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Former theater executive director Bob Spiotto inside the renovated downtown Riverhead theater, near the main stage, before the theater re-opened last year.

On the heels of what Suffolk Theater officials have described as a shift of focus from nightly events to larger, weekend events, the theater has parted ways with a top executive.

Executive Director Bob Spiotto was hired in July 2012 after a long tenure with Hofstra University, but was recently released, theater officials said Monday.

“As part of the re-organization and re-structuring efforts of the Suffolk Theater, it is unfortunate we had to let Mr. Spiotto go,” said the theater’s general manager, Anna Maria Villa, who was hired last month. “He is a fine professional and had contributed much of himself to the theater.”

Mr. Spiotto could not be immediately reached for comment.

A Holbrook resident and former executive producer and art director for Hofstra University’s Hofstra Entertainment program for nearly 22 years, Mr. Spiotto was hired by Suffolk Theater owners Bob and Dianne Castaldi to run the theater’s programming.

He came on board during the renovation phase of the historic theater, which re-opened in February.

Ms. Villa, who was hired July 22, said the theater is not hiring another executive director.

Ms. Villa was hired as the executive director of Riverhead’s Industrial Development Agency in August 2009, a position she held until September 2010, when the IDA board voted 4 — 1 to terminate her employment.

At the time, IDA chair Kathy Wojciechowski said the move was “not about Anna.”

“We decided to terminate the independent consultant agreement that we had with her and we’re going in another direction, which is to hire a full-time person,” Ms. Wojciechowski said in a 2010 interview.

The IDA offers a number of tax breaks and other incentives aimed at attracting businesses to the area. Its budget is entirely funded by feed paid by the businesses it assists.

Previous to working for the IDA, Ms. Villa, who was born in Italy and grew up in Rochester, N.Y., spent a few years running her own marketing and consulting firm, which developed marketing strategies and sales programs for small to mid-sized businesses and non-profit firms.

She has a degree in business and economics from Empire State College, and also worked as a disc jockey, a singer, a civil service investigator, a television reporter in Italy and a behind-the-scenes worker in Italy’s National Theatre Company.

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07/02/13 10:00am
07/02/2013 10:00 AM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | The theater marquis and the sky above downtown Riverhead.

It’s been nearly four months since the Suffolk Theater reopened in downtown Riverhead after a 26-year absence. In the weeks since, new wall coverings have been hung, the menu has been redesigned and plenty of actors have already graced the theater’s stage. A wedding was even held there last month.

The theater itself, executive director Bob Spiotto says, is still enjoying its honeymoon phase, but it’s also constantly looking for ways to evolve.

“I don’t know if one can put a definite start and end time to the creative honeymoon period,” Mr. Spiotto said. “The goal in March was to really come out swinging. The transition now is we’re looking to be very careful about what we schedule and how we schedule it.”

What does that mean for theatergoers, who have attended comedy nights, classic film screenings, live musical performances and Broadway-style revues at the restored art deco theater most days of the week for the past few months?

Well, those acts are here to stay — but they’ll mostly be rescheduled as weekend-only events.

“March had a unique menu of offerings,” Mr. Spiotto said. “Like anything else, in that first month it was a lot of — I don’t know if I want to say trial and error, but trial and learn.

“It would appear that audiences are most interested in being entertained and having a unique experience on the weekends,” he said. “That’s not to say we wouldn’t still be open to the occasional weeknight event if it were very unique, very special or celebratory in some way.”

The theater’s new focus Monday through Thursday, Mr. Spiotto said, will be on hosting special benefits, corporate events and meetings.

Other, more subtle changes have also been made since the theater’s return. Healthier offerings have been added to its menu and an unpopular mushroom pizza was nixed altogether. A country music night that did unexpectedly poorly will be reworked. Advance tickets are now available to theatergoers at a $5 discount from the door price.

“People are still learning we’re here,” Mr. Spiotto said. “There wasn’t a great deal of traffic in general [downtown] to begin with. We’re starting to see not only changes around us in terms of businesses but we are, of course, seeing our own business here. We are seeing and have been getting audiences coming to us from as far as Brooklyn.”

Downtown restaurant owners said they’ve noticed a modest increase in business from theatergoers.

“We actually see a little uptick if [the theater] does something Thursdays or Sundays,” said Dennis McDermott, who owns The Riverhead Project on East Main Street.

“It’s kind of trailed off from what it was, but they’re not having as many shows now,” said Ed Tuccio, owner of Tweeds Restaurant and Buffalo Bar, also on East Main Street.

“It’s not easy being everything to everybody,” Mr. Spiotto said of the theater’s initial packed and varied schedule. “We’ve been trying to do that, and there are two schools of thought with regard to that: Is it something we should be doing? Or is it something we shouldn’t be doing? And we are still trying to figure that out.

“What we do know is we want to provide this ongoing sense of diversity and high quality, and a very unique combined experience. There aren’t many locations where you can go and not only sit in a beautifully restored … “ Mr. Spiotto said, his voice trailing off.

He thought for a few seconds before continuing.

“You can’t have this experience [anywhere else] on Long Island,” he said.

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04/19/13 3:00pm
04/19/2013 3:00 PM
52600576FL005_arrivals
Riverhead will get a chance to wish one legendary comedic actor happy birthday in person this week at downtown’s Suffolk Theater.

Golden Globe-nominated actor Charles Grodin, who starred in 1972’s The Heartbreak Kid before working as a talk show host and political commentator on CBS’s 60 Minutes, will host a discussion about his life and career this Sunday afternoon.
It will be his 78th birthday.

“He’s going to be just sitting and chatting and giving us anecdotes,” said Susan Gentile-Hackett, the theater’s director of marketing.
Suffolk Theater director Bob Spiotto said he contacted Mr. Grodin — who also co-starred alongside Robert Dinero in the 1988-hit Midnight Run — after learning it was the actor’s birthday.
Mr. Spiotto said he asked if Mr. Grodin would like to come to the theater to talk to his fans.

“He was both honored and delighted,” Mr. Spiotto said. “He was very impressed with what he saw online about the space.
“Talk about everything falling into place at the right time.”

Mr. Spiotto said Mr. Grodin’s talk will be very informal; there’s no plan for what he’ll talk about, beyond answering audience questions and sharing videos from his career.

“He is going to share all of his humorous insights about all of the things he’s experienced,” Mr. Spiotto said. “The man has done it all.”

The event, “An Afternoon of Humor with Charles Grodin,” will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Suffolk Theater.
Tickets are available online or by calling the Suffolk Theater’s box office at (631) 727-4343.
03/03/13 10:00am
03/03/2013 10:00 AM
KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | The grand ballroom at Saturday's grand re-opening gala.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTOS | The Suffolk Theater’s grand ballroom at Saturday’s grand re-opening gala.

Opening night at the newly restored Suffolk Theatre in downtown Riverhead was a show stopper.

Hundreds packed the venue on Saturday to celebrate the theater’s grand reopening. The “Back to the 30’s” cocktail party marked the first time the theater has been open for business since it screened “Dirty Dancing” in 1987.

“We’re tired, but it feels great,” owner Bob Castaldi said. “This is what we’ve been waiting for.”

The theater first opened in December 1933. More than 80 years later, it remains the last large art deco theater on Long Island, theater officials say.

After buying the theater in 2005, and after litigation with the town halted progress on work, Mr. Castaldi and his wife, Dianne, have spent the last three years restoring the theatre to its former glory. Most of the fixtures and detailing are true to the original building.

Massapequa resident Jim Frost took notice. He recalled coming to the theater as a young boy. On grand opening night — a night two swiveling spotlights shot light back and forth off the clouds, and Main Street was lined with vintage cars —  he took his wife, Mimi, to enjoy the celebration and reminisce.

“It’s wonderful,” Frost said. “We bought tickets right away. I haven’t been this excited about an event in a long time.”

There was no stone left unturned, right down to the ragtime music gracing the stage. The party came to life with the help of Vince Giordano’s band, The Night Hawks. The ensemble won a 2012 best compilation soundtrack Grammy for its work on HBO’s prohibition-era series Boardwalk Empire.

Party guests indulged in the era. They dressed for the occasion and were sure to hit the dance floor.

“This has been something I’ve been talking about since I was 10,” explained Erin McKenna, whose mother has volunteered during the restoration. Ms. McKenna now lives in New York City but made a special trip to support the theater.

Many believe the theater is going to help the long-beleaguered downtown area start attracting much more people and businesses.

“It’s finally here,” Ms. McKenna said. “This is so important for Riverhead.”

The grand opening gala officially ended about9 p.m., but not many noticed. The party continued well into the night, as DJ Aly Di Nas kept guests dancing at the after party that featured signature cocktails.

In the upcoming weeks and months, the Suffolk Theatre will showcase a variety of classic movies, hold live concerts and dance parties and even a couple of magic shows.

To check out the full list of upcoming events, log on to www.suffolktheater.com

03/01/13 1:08pm
03/01/2013 1:08 PM
Read all about Suffolk Theater in Riverhead

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Newsies Nicholas Inzerillo and Shane Westphelan, both of Manorville, hand out theater programs.

More than 100 people turned out Friday morning for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at downtown Riverhead’s newly renovated Suffolk Theater.

The area of East Main Street outside the theater had been shut to traffic for most of the morning, as crowds gathered to listen to period music from Bob Barta and the Sunnyland Jazz Band, which performed on a red carpet under the theater’s digital marquis — as bubbles rained from the sky.

Theater ownes Bob and Dianne Castaldi and theater executive director Bob Spiotto were joined by town officials, county lawmakers and representatives of county Executive Steve Bellone and New York Governor Andew Cuomo.

Officials agreed the theater will help in the continued revival of downtown and act as a magnet to attract new business.

02/23/13 9:30am
02/23/2013 9:30 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The Suffolk Theater hosted an invitation-only event to thank the people who helped out with the renovation.

The newly renovated Suffolk Theater in downtown Riverhead hosted an invitation-only preview event Friday evening for “friends of the theater.”

The event was to honor the theater’s workers, builders, sponsors and others from the community who helped during the renovation.

Suffolk Theatre owner Bob Castaldi was back at work at the theater by 7:30 a.m. Saturday.

“I think it went great,” he said of Friday’s event, called “We Celebrate You.” He said that the day before, and even the morning of the event, there was “scaffolding up all over. People said ‘impossible’ when told it would be ready by Friday night.”

He estimates that the number of people there was in the low 200s.

One of those in attendance was was 83-year-old Geraldine Hulse of Aquebogue.

“I saw Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz here,” she said. “It was the first movie I ever saw. I was absolutely dumbfounded. I will always remember the beautiful ceiling.”

She called the restored theater “absolutely stunning.”

The theater was last open during the week of Sept. 24, 1987, when it showed the film, “Dirty Dancing,” according to ads in the News-Review at the time.

In the Oct. 1, 1987 News-Review, the Suffolk Theater ad said “Closed for the Season.”

It would actually be closed for the next 26 years.

Mr. Castaldi said they used Friday’s event to assess different things that worked and didn’t work.

One comment many people there had was that the music was too loud and it was difficult to talk to people.But the speakers used Friday night were not the speakers that will be used once the theater is fully constructed, Mr. Castaldi said.

The temporary speakers had to be blasted from the stage to make sure the sound reached the balcony, he said. Once completed, the theater will have “surround sound” speakers throughout the inside the building, “so the sound will be next to you,” he said.

Friday’s event featured live music from the Hackensack Men and the Trenton Horns.

The theater has upstairs and downstairs bars and people were even taking tours of both the men’s and ladies rooms Friday night.

Suffolk Theatre executive director Bob Spiotto has already got the month of March booked with 25 events, ranging from movies to concerts to plays.

“I think it’s going to be great if last night any indication,” Mr. Castaldi said.

The theater will host its grand opening celebration next Saturday, March 2. The  “Back to the 30′s” cocktail party tickets are priced at $125.

The event will feature Vince Giordano’s band The Night Hawks, which won a 2012 best compilation soundtrack Grammy for its work on HBO’s prohibition-era hit Boardwalk Empire.

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02/23/13 9:29am

COURTESY PHOTO | Acclaimed local chef Tom Schaudel, shown here at his restaurant Jewel in Huntington, has signed on as culinary director at the new Suffolk Theater in Riverhead.

The Suffolk Theater is set to open in downtown Riverhead next week and a familiar face has joined the team.

Chef Tom Schaudel, best known on the North Fork as the owner of acclaimed restaurants A Mano and Alure, has signed on as culinary director of the theater.

In that capacity, he’ll oversee the theater’s full-service restaurant and two bars.

A graduate of The Culinary Institute, Mr. Schaudel opened his first restaurant on Long Island 30 years ago.

Mr. Schaudel’s first order of business in his new role was to collaborate with the theater’s food and beverage manager Lawrence Smith on a special cocktail for opening night March 2.

See a recipe for the drink, dubbed The Lord Suffolk Cocktail, below:

THE ‘LORD SUFFOLK’ COCKTAIL

Stir in mixing glass with ice & strain

1 3/4 oz Hendricks* gin (5 cl, 7/16 gills)

1/4 oz Cointreau (6 dashes, 1/16 gills)

1/4 oz sweet vermouth (6 dashes, 1/16 gills)

1/4 oz maraschino liqueur (6 dashes, 1/16 gills)

Add lemon twist

Serve in a cocktail glass (4.5 oz)

02/15/13 3:00pm
02/15/2013 3:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The new marquee for The Suffolk Theater debuted in September 2011.

The Suffolk Times is interested to hear any stories you may have of The Suffolk Theater when it was in operation between the 1930s and 1970s for an upcoming story. Did you or anyone you know work at the theater or have a direct connection to it?

If so, contact business reporter Gianna Volpe at [email protected] or 631-354-8027.

01/18/13 12:00pm
01/18/2013 12:00 PM
Downtown Riverhead revitalization

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The theater’s digital marquee was unveiled in 2011.

Downtown Riverhead’s historic Suffolk Theater is throwing a 1930s-style cocktail party to mark its grand re-opening in March.

But organizers are promoting the throw-back event in a most modern way.

Tickets went on sale Wednesday, but Suffolk Theater Facebook fans are getting first dibs.

It doesn’t take much to be a fan, though. Those interested in securing a spot on the guest list now can visit the Suffolk Theater’s Facebook page and then click the “like” button. Fans will be given a “secret code” needed to purchase tickets, according to the Facebook page.

Those fans coming across technical problems can purchase the tickets over the phone at (631) 727-4343 or at the theater box office at 118 East Main Street, said LynnAnn Kolesar, box office manager.

Tickets for March 2 “Back to the 30’s” cocktail party are priced at $125.00.

The event will feature Vince Giordano’s band The Night Hawks, which won a 2012 best compilation soundtrack Grammy for its work on HBO’s prohibition-era hit Boardwalk Empire.

The art-deco downtown theater — which last screened a movie in 1986 and had been undergoing on-again, off-again renovation work ever since — will open its doors like it had for the first time back in 1933, organizers said. Current owner Bob Castaldi, who purchased the theater from the town for $700,000 in 2005, illuminated an updated, digitalized marquee at the theater in 2011 after settling a prolonged legal battle with the town over theater ownership.

Work has progressed ever since.

PHOTOS FROM INSIDE THE THEATER

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10/22/12 8:00am
10/22/2012 8:00 AM
Downtown Riverhead, Suffolk theater, first event

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | People packed the ‘new’ Suffolk Theater’s first-ever event in September. The event was designed to bring arts and business leaders together.

The Riverhead Industrial Development Agency will hold a hearing today on a request for tax breaks to help finish the restoration of the Suffolk Theater in downtown Riverhead.

That hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. in Riverhead Town Hall.

Suffolk Theater owner Bob Castaldi said the cost of renovating the theater, which he purchased from the town in 2005 for $707,000, has exceeded the amount he anticipated, and the work is only about 80 percent done.

The IDA resolution puts the value of the work yet to be done at $1.57 million.

Mr. Castaldi is seeking to have the tax assessment on the project remain at its current level for 10 years, according to IDA director Tracy Stark-James. He also seeks sales tax exemptions on building materials and an exemption on paying mortgage recording tax.

Mr. Castaldi hopes to reopen the theater as a performing arts center by New Year’s Day. It has not operated as a movie theater since 1987.

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