10/29/13 1:15pm
10/29/2013 1:15 PM
KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTOS | The Suffolk Theater's grand ballroom during its grand re-opening gala in March.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTOS | The Suffolk Theater’s grand ballroom during its grand re-opening gala in March. Anna Maria Villa was hired as GM in July.

Roughly three months after Anna Maria Villa was hired as general manager of the Suffolk Theater, she and the theater have parted ways.

Anna Maria Villa

Anna Maria Villa

Bob Castaldi, who co-owns the theater with his wife, Dianne, said Ms. Villa, who was hired in July, no longer works at the theater as of today, Tuesday.

“We just have different visions of which direction this theater should move in,” Mr. Castaldi said of the split. “It was very amicable.”

Ms. Villa could not be immediately reached for comment.

When asked what direction the theater plans to move in, Mr. Castaldi said that was something he was evaluating “right now” and that theater officials are looking for a new general manager.

“We’ve got all our people and we’ve got a couple of meetings over the next few days,” Mr. Castaldi said. “We will find a new course if necessary.”

This is the second time in less than six months the Suffolk Theater has parted ways with a top executive. In August, after a year on the job, Bob Spiotto was released from his duties as the theater’s first executive director as part of a shift of focus from nightly events to larger, weekend events.

Prior to working at the theater, 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.

Prior 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, as well as a television reporter in Italy.

ryoung@timesreview.com

03/05/13 11:04am
03/05/2013 11:04 AM
Suffolk Theater in Riverhead

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | The Suffolk Theater’s grand re-opening night.

The numbers are in, and the Suffolk Theater sold exactly 609 tickets to Saturday night’s grand opening gala in downtown Riverhead, theater officials told the News-Review Tuesday.

In fact, the “Back to the ’30s” cocktail party, which commemorated the recently renovated and reopened theater’s 1933 opening, was such a success that theater owners Bob and Dianne Castaldi are considering making it an annual anniversary event.

“I’m delighted. The overall feel and enthusiasm we’ve been able to create here is remarkable,” Bob Spiotto, the theater’s executive director, said of the event’s outcome and ticket tallies.

“It will certainly be a event that will go down in history,” he said.

Tickets sold for $125 apiece for the party, which featured 1930s-style decor inside and out, and period costumes for staffers and attendees alike.

While there was plenty of seating, the event at its peak was standing room only, theater officials said.

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 12:48pm
03/01/2013 12:48 PM
Newsies at Suffolk Theater

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Newsies Nicholas Inzerillo and Shane Westphelan, both of Manorville, hand out theater programs at Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.

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.

01/18/13 11:00am
01/18/2013 11:00 AM
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

cmiller@timesreview.com