The art-deco styled Callicoon Theater is the oldest continually operating movie theater in Sullivan County, New York. Opening night took place on July 8, 1948 with a showing of the American western film titled Green Grass of Wyoming starring Charles Coburn and Peggy Cummins. Marilyn Monroe appeared in the film as an uncredited extra.
The single-screen theater, which was originally called the Harden Theater, was built by Fred H. Starck as part of a regional chain owned by Harvey D. English. The Harden Theater at Callicoon was the 13th theater in the chain. The building was built in “the Quonset style, with rounded roof coming down to the foundation on either side. The frame is of wood and has Rilco rafters.” (The Hancock Herald. July 1, 1948.) Construction was primarily completed by the Martin Hermann Lumber Company.
The theater originally had seating capacity for 514 people. Ray Dexter, Jr., former manager of the Park Theatre at Narrowsburg, was appointed as the first manager of the new Harden Theatre in Callicoon.
In 1963 the theater was purchased by the partnership James “Mickey” Roche (1933-2018) and Warren Doetsch (1936-1921), who renamed the theater by dropping the “H” and calling it the Arden Theater. Roche was a US Army veteran, a parishioner at Holy Cross Church and worked as president of Roche’s Garage, which he operated for many years in partnership with his brother “Rease” Roche. Doetsch, a graduate of Jeffersonville High School and the Albany College of Pharmacy (1958), in addition to operating the Callicoon Theater with Roche, was a pharmacist for 43 years, including owning and operating the Callicoon Pharmacy for 15 years. He worked at various other pharmacies in the area until his retirement from the New York State Department of Corrections in 2001. Doetsch, was a member of the Board of Education, the Callicoon Kiwanis Club and St. John’s Lutheran Church. Roche and Doetsch operated the Callicoon Theater for 23 years, selling it 1986 to Jim and Barbara Kayton.
After their purchase the Kayton’s renamed the theater to the Callicoon Theater and would successfully operate it for the next 32 years, with Jim handling the technical operations and Barbara handling personnel activities. In an October 2023 interview the Kayton’s noted that the longest movie run under their ownership was for Titanic, which was filled for every showing for three consecutive weeks.
In 2018 Kristina Smith, a freelance theater director and producer, purchased the theater and the theater continues to serve the regional community with first-run films and timeless classics.
The Callicoon Theater is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Callicoon Downtown Historic District.