Vail-Leavitt Music Hall

18 Peconic Avenue,
Riverhead, NY 11901

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Related Websites

The Vail-Leavitt Music-Hall (Official)

Additional Info

Functions: Live Theater

Styles: Beaux-Arts

Previous Names: Music Hall, Lyceum Theater, Mini-Cine, Imperial Restaurant

Phone Numbers: Box Office: 631.727.5782

Nearby Theaters

Vail-Leavitt Music Hall

The Music Hall was opened on October 11, 1881. It was built by David F. Vail. In 1909 it was renamed Lyceum Theatre. The theatre has only occasionally served as a movie theatre in its entire history, but that history could hardly be more distinguished: Thomas Edison used the theatre for early experiments in sound movies in 1914 using his Kinetophone.

The main theatre, upstairs, is an astonishing gem - a miniature opera house with the interior designed and embellished by J. W. Flack. It was closed in 1914 when World War I began, and a flu pandemic began. After the end of World War I it became a Chinese restaurant named Imperial Restaurant. A fire in the kitchen which was located on the stage damaged that part of the building, but the auditorium was saved. The restaurant never reopened. It was converted into a pool hall, followed by use as a betting establishment. From the end of 1925 until 1978 it was used for storage.

It was abandoned and forgotten for decades. In the late-1970’s, restoration efforts began, and they’ve been slowly continuing ever since. From 1984 to 1998 or so, old Classic movies were shown on a small 84-seat screen in a cramped downstairs space in an effort to raise funds and involve the community in the restoration crusade. The shows included live organ music and exhortations to volunteer.

The building had been sold for redevelopment in October 2023.

Contributed by chelydra

Recent comments (view all 7 comments)

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on October 16, 2004 at 11:17 pm

If you love theaters this is a must you will not see this style oftheater in the country anymore.This is a MUST MUST TO SEE plan a trip……………..

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on July 24, 2006 at 7:15 pm

Any theater historian,fan,should put this second floor theater on the must see list!

sameegrl on February 4, 2009 at 7:48 pm

I remember when they had the Mini Cine downstairs and showed some great old films.

PaulLD1 on March 16, 2009 at 3:30 pm

I never went to the Mini Cine myself, but I do remember looking every week in Newsday for the listings for this theatre, a sample below:

Mini-Cine: Top Hat Fri. Sat. 8

I remember how that single listing just stood out among the multi-listings of the multi-plexes, and how I said to myself “One day, I will go!” Sadly, one day never came for me….

chelydra on February 25, 2013 at 12:40 am

Just made some comments on the page for the Suffolk Theater (around the corner) which apply equally to this one… Some half-baked thoughts on how to make this theater-restoration thing really work…

paul baar
paul baar on November 24, 2022 at 8:51 am

I went there in the late 1980’s when they were showing classic movies and some recent ones to raise money for the restoration on Saturday nights. There would be a trivia contest to win tickets for future showings between showings. I was saw a Nelson Eddie & Jeanette McDonald movie also a Clara Bow talking movie “The Wild Party, also a Lou Diamond Phillips movie.

robboehm on October 30, 2023 at 12:59 pm

Theatre has been acquired by Riverhead for expansion and redevelopment.

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