Riviera Theatre

67 Webster Street,
North Tonawanda, NY 14120

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Showing 51 - 75 of 85 comments

LouB on October 7, 2007 at 5:18 pm

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This site shows the interior of the theatre

LouB on October 7, 2007 at 5:13 pm

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The above web site is a virtual tour of the Riviera.

opus1280 on August 26, 2007 at 8:17 am

Thats a shame that that happened again. Thats what happens when the cable isnt guided on the spindle properly. I hope not too much was lost on this last fall!

LouB on August 8, 2007 at 10:42 pm


The above site refers to an article about the theater’s chandelier.

LouB on May 6, 2007 at 2:08 pm

I remember going to the Riviera during the 70’s for second run films and paying $1.00. The theater was dingy and dirty and the seats were badly worn. Yet, as you looked around you could see there once was a time when this theater was special.
Fortunately, volunteers came forward to restore the theater and it once again offers something for everyone in this elegantly restored theater.

Patsy on March 29, 2007 at 4:30 pm

Under Function I’m not so sure I’d describe the Riviera as the “Community Arts Center” as they show movies and schedule organ recitals.

Patsy on March 29, 2007 at 4:26 pm

A great classic movie selection…Sabrina with Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and William Holden: All About Eve with Bette Davis and Anne Baxter; Some Like It Hot with Marilyn Monroe Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, Suddenly Last Summer with Elizabeth Taylor, Adam’s Rib with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn; Holiday with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn.

Patsy on March 29, 2007 at 4:15 pm

LOUB: Thanks for posting the Summer Film Series as I try to make at least one trip each summer to this beautiful theatre. As you enter the front doors with the overhead stained glass past the enclosed ticket kios through the stained glass lobby doors with an R on each one you know you have entered a very special theatre that receives TLC. The organ recitals each month are spectacular, too.

LouB on March 29, 2007 at 2:48 pm

Check out their Summer Film Series at www.rivieratheatre.org

opus1280 on December 24, 2006 at 1:55 pm

btw Merry Christmas all! :-D

opus1280 on December 24, 2006 at 1:45 pm

I am, to say the least, quite offended by John Basils last posting. When I spoke of the chandelier housed at the RIVIERA, I was speaking about the chandelier housed at the RIVIERA. Not when it was housed at the Genesee, please take the time to read future postings carefully before commenting. There were no suppositions made on my part about which I stated, as I was there, and either experienced it personally, or was informed of a certain instance to prevent it from happening again while performing work. Now, When myself, and Jim Davis were in the attic of the RIVIERA preparing to lower the chandelier for cleaning and relamping, I was specifically told to keep downward tension on the cable and guide it so that it didn’t overlap on the spindle and snap back into place, thus causing the chandelier to free fall like it had on Jim’s watch some 15 years before. It was as a result of that incident, which I recalled, that the crystal chains, the pins of which attach each crystal together to form a chain, being original and no different from anything you would find in residential fixture use, broke under the stress and allowed chains and several pendants to fall directly the the auditorium floor. You are indeed correct about the locking mechanism, but that does no good if the cable overlaps itself on the spindle and jumps back into place, as i stated. If you look closely, from the RIVIERA balcony, you can see the damage, more so in the pendants. If you have been in the attic of the RIVIERA, you would see why this care is necessary, given the way the mechanism had to be mounted on the structure, at an angle. When I referred to the “Dome,” i was referring to the dome at the RIVIERA. Perhaps you noticed it when you were there with your mother, its 54' from the ventilation grill to the auditorium floor below, its rather hard to miss when looking at the chandelier. I do recall the work light circuit, it contained 300 watt bulbs (i cant remember if they were standard or Mogul bases, but they were indeed “bulbs” and the sockets are the originals with their pressed brass flower petal surounds) while in the RIVIERA. It was wired up as such when installed at the RIVIERA, but was reconfigured when “myself, Don Lange, Jim Davis and Bill Howland” rewired the fixture and added more circuits, im not supposing we did that, it was done, and I was physically there.
Im rather amused that you questioned rather or not the chandelier at the RIVIERA is indeed that from the Genesee. I have two B&W photographs of the Genesee, one of the Auditorium, taken from house left at the rear, showing the specific chandelier (although not on) that is now housed at the RIVIERA (there really is no mistaking it, and i can see the inner works behind the many chains of crystal) and one of what I think is the lobby, with some rather scantily clad chandeliers that look like half their crystal chains were missing. I can tell, just by examining the photo that they are indeed one in the same. While I may, as you stated, be a neophyte compared to your long theatre experience, ive heard no such mention any other Buffalo area house having such a large Empire style crystal chandelier that could be so uncanny in size, shape and design as that which resides at the RIVIERA today. It is indeed the Genesee chandelier.
The fixture, contrary to what was stated, is also easily dismantled. It was made from stock components, assembled, and disassembled in sections. I can verify this by virtue of the fact that I was personally there to aid in its dismantling for cleaning, and at that time rewiring, which required its dismantling. You would be hard pressed to perform electrical improvements and updating on the fixture with out taking it appart. It was not made to not to be dismantled. No more made in such a way than the Pearlman fixtures at the Buffalo theatre, which are actually of superior quality, thats no supposition either.
Ive also taken offense to your jab about no “volunteers” touching the cherished chandelier while at the Genesee. Speaking as one of those volunteers, although relocated and not able to be involved at the Riviera anymore, the Riviera theatre and the former Genesee theatre chandelier as well as the rest of the relics that have been rescued over the years, would probably not be here today without them! I highly doubt that the “Skilled Employees” of the Genesee included any chandelier craftsman, anymore than the Riviera does. If it wasn’t for that family of dedicated people working their fannies off to keep that theatre afloat, often using their OWN money and materials, WNY would much the poorer.
I meant nothing malicious by my previous posting, just to correct some foggy information, which Mr. Basil may have not been aware of. But then I come back several months later a read his somewhat nose in the air insulting response and back tracking on several points.
When I read words like “Skilled Craftsman,” “chained crystals were very very secure”,“A free fall of a foot would not affect any part of the chandelier”, “disassembled without damage,” “Electrical improvments”, “updating”, “The big question is”,“my mother and attorney Curtis told me ,”“My book,” all are suppositions with no validations from curmudgeons guessing and distorting True Theatre History. I gave you facts, about the fixture while housed inside the RIVIERA, and you made the choice to misconstrue them and twist it around to fit your own agenda and then insult me. I must say, i now doubt the credibility of your memory and notes, but it certainly will be interesting to read this “book.” Now, if you wish to discuss the “True” Theatre History of the Genesee, then do it on its own page! Cory Wright

JBasil on September 20, 2006 at 4:48 am

This is in response to “opus 1280 on September 2, 2006 at 9:43 p.m.” Again, my name is John Basil. My book includes photos and records of the Genesee theatre which was built by the Basil Bros. and opened Columbus Day 1927. I am the son of Bill, one of the Basil Bros. and 77 years old. I went to the Genesee from the 1930’s. I managed the theatre from 1958 until January 1965 when I was asked to manage the Century Theatre for the record opening of “Mary Poppins.” When I managed the Genesee Theatre I watched the lowering of the chandelier every summer or more if needed. It took at least two days work when the theatre was not open to the public. Every single inch of the chandelier was attended to and cleaned properly by our skilled employees, no “volunteers.”
In going over my records, I am now correcting my own statement in the “December 15, 2005 Correction.” Within the chandelier and hardly noticeable were six high wattage lights similar to flood lights. No regular “bulbs.” At the bottom point of the chandelier was one higher wattage flood light. It was only used to light up the entire auditorium for the cleaners and maintenance man. The chandelier could be dim to maximum bright. The bottom flood light went on or off. There were so many chained crystals that unless one moved them to look within, people hardly knew the actual lighting. The chained crystals were very very secure. A free fall of a foot would not affect any part of the chandelier, but this”free fall” could never happen because there was a continual locking mechanism to prevent any mishap.
Bill Barrett was our Chief Electrician at all Basil Theatres including the Lafayette Theatre and ten-story office building. Through the years the electrical part of the chandelier was improved and updated. Barrett was always at the Genesee when the chandelier was lowered to check everything electric. All lights whether working or not were thrown out and replaced new. When it was lowered it would be several feet from the center aisle carpet and just above any seats. A ladder was used to reach the upper part of the chandelier.
The lighting was all white and illuminated the entire auditorium showing all the red ornate damask walls and paintings on the ceiling. There was NO “dome.” The ceiling was rectangular and slightly curved upward. The entire rectangle had a hidden opening with all around lights illuminating all the paintings and just above the chandelier an ornate colorful painting with a painted “domed” effect. Anyone can fit more circuits to make it “shine much brighter” but the actual affect and effect of the original chandelier was to create an aura of bright sparkling crystals that enthralled the public during certain showtimes!
Now the reality of what really happened with no suppositions as “opus 1280” and others at the Riviera or anywhere. There was absolutely nothing wrong or any impairment of the chandelier when I left the theatre in January 1965. I have all the original plans and photos from the architects and builders, Henry and son William Spann, dated 1927 on. All of my information comes from the living Basils and Bill Spann.
When the Genesee Theatre and building was sold in 1966, I was not here or in Buffalo until 1976. When I returned to Buffalo my mother and attorney Curtis told me the owner Buntford had a serious profit problem. He eventually sold everything he could or even give away. After gutting the theatre, the building, and behind in taxes, Buntford eventually walked away. The city had to demolish the Genesee Theatre and Building to just a field of nothing.
The big question is, what kind of condition or what chandelier actually went to the Riviera? The original Genesee chandelier was carefully assembled by the manufacturer in the Genesee auditorium before 2230 theatre seats were installed. It was not made to leave the Genesee Theatre as is or even be disassembled without damage.
Attorney Curtis told me he checked the theatre on occasion. In the end, almost all seats were gone, Greek marble outside and inside taken away from the structure. Anything of value was sold or given away. Attorney Curtis told me he could not recognize the chandelier and could not tell if it was original. On one occasion, I went to the Riviera with my mother and we could not recognize the chandelier. When the Riviera uses “red, blue, green, amber” lighting, the colors subdue any white and gives the Riviera auditorium a bleak and dismal appearance.
When I read words like, “hearing a story”, “I can’t say for sure”, “dome”, “could”, “perhaps”, “myself, Don Lange, Jim Davis and Bill Howland” all are suppositions with no validations from neophytes guessing and distorting True Theatre History. My book covers 3 chapters on the Genesee Theatre and a most revealing true story about the Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda, New York.
George Mackenna, Managing Director of Basil’s Lafayette Theatre, introduced me to Max Yellen in 1949.

opus1280 on September 2, 2006 at 6:43 pm

Its been awhile since I looked at this! Look at all the posts! To correct Kenroe’s post from Jan 03,2005, The organ was a 3/11(not 10) model 235 sp. What made it an SP was the omission (in 1926) of the Salicional in favor of an Oboe Horn, no Marimba or piano, and a smaller 5hp blower. JohnBasil said that there were more crystals and more bulbs on the Rivs chandelier while at the Genesee, i have to disagree. In regards to the crystal i cant say for sure but, I remember hearing a story about an early cleaning fiasco at the Riviera,not too long after that fixture was installed in 1974 in which the cable used to lower the fixture overlapped on itself on the spindle in the attic, and then jumped violently back into place, allowing the chandelier to free fall an inch or so, and jerk to a stop suddenly, causing a horrific cascade of crystals to jettison down to the aud floor (its a 54' drop from the top of that dome to the aud floor). Volunteers then used what was not shattered to recreate the chains and rehang what they could. Thats why the fixture looks so naked currently. At one time, there was a box of crystal pieces left over from that accident in what is now the double door work shop in the basement, probably still in there. As for the bulbs, I have to disagree. I was one of the people whom helped add the additional circuits to both the upper and lower baskets of the fixture back in the late 90s, myself, Don Lange, Jim Davis and Bill Howland. There were far less bulbs in that fixture as originally constructed than there are currently. Perhaps while at the Genesee, there was only one circuit, which was white. At the Riviera, when I started there we had 3, White, Red and Blue. Now, in its original state it could have all been one “white” circuit and then split off into 3 after installation at the Riviera. It currently has White, Red, Blue, Green and Amber. Or did anyway before I moved away 3 years ago. If all combined circuits were fitted with white bulbs today, it would shine much brighter than it did at the Genesee! Now you know the rest of the story! Golly gee I miss that place!

LouB on August 19, 2006 at 8:47 am

There has been a weekly movie festival featuring films which were made in Western New York over the Summer. Films like The Natural and Niagara played on the big screen.

Patsy on July 31, 2006 at 9:49 am

For anyone local the next Wurlitzer organ recital at the Riviera is on August 16th at 7:00.

Patsy on May 15, 2006 at 10:30 am

It’s been a long since I posted here, but just wanted to invite anyone who has never attended one of their monthly organ recitals to do so as you won’t be disappointed in the recital or this theatre and the TLC is receives on a continual basis from the volunteer workers.

JohnBasil on December 15, 2005 at 8:55 am

Yes, the largest chandelier in Buffalo and WNY came from Basil’s Genesee Theater, but before reaching the Riviera, it had many more chained crystals and sparkeled BRIGHT white from many more hidden bulbs behind the crystals.

JohnBasil on December 9, 2005 at 6:42 am

On Sunday July 30, 1939 newspaper headlines read “BASIL’S TAKE CENTURY” the Shea’s Theaters were in full declination. Also taken over were the RIVIERA and BAILEY along with other theaters. On August 1, 1939 the Century and Riviera reopened as a part of the Dipson-Basil theater chain and leased from Max Yellen. Both theaters remodeled and had a new triangle marquee. Yes the largest chandelier in Buffalo and WNY came from Basil’s Genesee theater, but before it had many chained crystals and sparkeled brioght white from hidden bulbs behind the crystals
When Dipson bought Basil’s share for 2,000,000 in 1941 – shortly after, Dipson was Block Booked by “Sheas”. Dipson went to the US Supreme Court and the Federal Court ordered Paramount’s illegal Shea operation to vacate, not sell, all Shea theaters in 1948.
Within a year my book on True Theater History should be released. It is about the “Illegal Schemes” against theater owners nationwide and Michael Shea, who never owned or built a “Shea’s” theater. For questions or comments I can be reached at 716-834-0348.

Patsy on October 10, 2005 at 5:56 am

During my tours of theatres this summer I have noticed that many marquees are in need of repair or have changed in style over the years. The Palace Theatre in Albany NY returned their 70’s style marquee to the 30’s era, but added a moving neon board of lights which, imo, distracts and unfortunately the theatre does not still have their original organ nor ticket kios.

Patsy on October 4, 2005 at 6:27 am

The marquee was certainly changed when you compare the 2 photos you have posted on Sept. 26 and Oct. 3. The Sept. 26 photo is what it looks like now, but I prefer the Oct. 3 marquee!

Patsy on May 18, 2005 at 11:12 am

Robert R: In the first agilitynut photo the exterior of the theatre with the front doors and marquee is shown. Above is a logo or coat of arms design made of plaster. Do you know if this is a Warner Coat of Arms as I’m trying to find out if a Warner coat of arms actually existed? Not sure if the Riviera had any Warner connection as the architect was Lempert from Rochester NY. I am told by a NYS theatre owner that the brass coat of arms in his theatre is, in fact, a Warner coat of arms. I’m not questioning what he told me, but would like to research this more. The Warner Brothers were originally from Youngstown OH and a Warner Film Festival is held each year in the New Castle/Slippery Rock PA area. The first silent movie theatre ever built was in New Castle and it is being restored which is great news!

Patsy on May 18, 2005 at 8:53 am

sam_e: My husband and I will be at the Riviera Theatre this evening, 5/18/05 so would be fun to meet. I’ll be wearing a red top with beige slacks.

Patsy on April 29, 2005 at 1:30 pm

Go to www.agilitynut.com to check out other photos!