Riviera Theatre

31-33 Chenango Street,
Binghamton, NY 13901

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Showing 1 - 25 of 49 comments

generalenigma
generalenigma on January 31, 2013 at 8:17 am

Patsy — I am afraid that absolutely nothing has happened since last May 24th. I have seen nothing further at all & still have no idea who the buyer was nor anything about their intentions. Wish I had better news. Jim Macumber

Patsy
Patsy on January 31, 2013 at 7:00 am

What is the current restoration status with this historical theatre??

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 31, 2013 at 3:45 am

This web page about the Stone Opera House says that it is likely that Elfred Bartoo and Sanford O. Lacey designed the Stone Opera House under the supervision of architect Isaac G. Perry.

This brief biography of Elfred Bartoo says that he worked as a draftsman on the State Capitol project with Perry in 1891, which is also the year Charles Stone announced his intention of building this theater. The biography also notes that, prior to forming his partnership with Bartoo, Sanford Lacey had been Isaac Perry’s senior draftsman.

Ranjit Sandhu, who compiled a partial list of the works of Leon H. Lempert & Son, says that Lempert acted as consulting architect on the Stone Opera House. He also credits I. G. Perry as the architect of the project, though he doesn’t cite a source for the claim. Still, it seems likely that Stone would have chosen Binghamton’s leading architect to design his theater, and also likely that Perry, as busy as he was with the State Capitol and other projects at the time, would turn the project over to his trusted draftsmen.

The web page about the Opera House I cited earlier also says that the house opened as the Columbia Theatre, but came to be called the Stone Opera House within a year. The house, then under construction, was referred to as the Columbia Theatre in an item in the July 6, 1892, issue of The Electrical Engineer.

Admiral37
Admiral37 on June 2, 2012 at 9:08 am

How sad to read about the total decay of a once magnificent theater. I saw many movies there as a kid growing up in the 50’s and 60’s. I’ll always remember that amazing marquee that Comerford Theaters built to connect the Riviera and Strand.

Patsy
Patsy on May 25, 2012 at 6:29 am

Jim: Thanks so very much for your detailed report. I only hope that the new owner restores the building! I have walked through many theatres and a good companion is a good working flashlight and a good tour guide. Thanks again!

generalenigma
generalenigma on May 25, 2012 at 4:04 am

Patsy .. Being retired now I had the opportunity to go to a public opening to see the interior of the Riviera Theatre (Stone Opera House) at 8:00 yesterday morning and attend the auction 3 hours later at 11:00. However, as this was the first time I had ever in my life attended either of these type events, I was unprepared for the harsh realities entailed. The interior of the theatre requires very careful walking about with dirt, garbage, chunks of wood and various other “crap” make walking difficult & dangerous, to say anything of the obvious structural problems you could encounter. AND a lot of it is DARK !!! You REALLY NEEDED a GOOD FLASHLIGHT to navigate around which I had not come prepared with. I was EXTREMELY FORTUNATE to meet John Darrow, a board member of PAST (The Preservation Society of the Souther Tier) who is also a architectural restoration expert. He was extremely friendly & well-prepared & I was able to accompany him & his flashlight on my time inside the building. I really cannot thank him enough. I followed him up to the second floor & got up onto the balcony with him in confidence knowing he knew what he was doing & feeling pretty safe … I would never have gone up there alone without a flashlight. He did travel up the long stairs from the balcony to go behind it & got into the projection booth. I did not follow in that trip since the stairs did not seem to have any kind of railing & were quite debris covered & I was afraid of falling … though I really would have loved to see the projection booth. The 15 minutes I spent at the open house were extremely eye-openingly painful. I found out the roof which I had THOUGHT was repaired in September was NOT completed & much of the north west corner of the theatre is still open to the elements. (John told me the “owner” who contracted the job DID NOT PAY AFTER THE FIRST HALF OF THE JOB WAS DONE … so the cntractor simply abandoned the job.) The north wall which showed some paint left & ornamentation when those pictures were taken & posted on “Treasures of the Tier” website, is now virtually completely bare & shows virtually no idea of what it looked like in the days the theatre was running. The railing & part of the structural front kneewall of the overhead balcony has broken off & is lying across the orchestra seats below. Like I said … very depressing. John said to restore the building to ant real functionality would probably take about 4 MILLION Dollars. I’m guessing that to restore it to it’s original glory as a theatre would probably be 10 MILLION assuming it to even be possible. At the auction itself, there were probably about 300 people in a room that holds 150!!! IT WAS STANDING ROOM ONLY !!! There were 32 properties on the docket for this auction & The Stone Opera House was to be the 24th offering. It took half an hour or more for the auctioneer to just explain all the rules & status of the properties & once he finally got started auctioning the first 3 properties (in what they call a “Buyer’s Choice”) his banter was so difficult to follow & the room was so noisy that I really wasn’t getting much out of the proceedings … plus I was standing & getting tired. When The Stone Opera House was offered assumably a couple of hours later, I was pretty sure I would not be able to tell who bought it & for what so I left about 11:45 & decided I’d wait until today’s news to see what happened. This morning’s paper listed how all the properties sold … amounts vs. assessed values but no mention of high bidders. The Stone Opera House sold for $68,000 (I am not sure if that includes the 5% buyers premium or not) against an assessed valuation of $60,000. The paper DID say that the new owner has revealed no plans for the building. I am hoping that with that kind of investment that their intentions are to restore the building. But I am sure it will never be the glorious theatre it once was. That’s my full report !!! Jim Macumber

Patsy
Patsy on May 24, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Today is May 24th, auction day! Hope to read a post about it soon! Thanks to any CT member who was there!

Patsy
Patsy on May 21, 2012 at 6:16 am

I have found the photos and find them to be very upsetting. The roof should never have been allowed to deteriorate to its present condition! You can see that the former opera house was a “treasure” at one time. My thoughts will be on that auction come Thursday. Wish I were closer to Binghamton than 200 miles!

Patsy
Patsy on May 21, 2012 at 6:08 am

General: Thanks for your informative reply. I do hope that the auction is successful with a motivated buyer! Keep us posted with the auction being May 24th.

generalenigma
generalenigma on May 20, 2012 at 6:54 pm

Patsy, On the “Treasures of the Tier” page which comes up when you click on the link in my post, you will see a list of articles you may click on to navigate to. Scroll down to the one entitled “Fixing a hole where the rain gets in – Major repair begins on Opera House”. To update you to today’s status, the roof was repaired in Sept 2009 which I would assume stopped further damage to the interior of the theatre. But nothing else has been done as far as I am aware. It goes on the auction block again this coming Thursday May 24th with no reserve. But, like the neighboring Strand Theatre which was sold at auction in November 2010 with so far NOTHING being done to the property or any announced plans for it by the new owners in the past 18 months, I fear the auction will not not result in a new owner really doing anything to save the property. Jim Macumber

Patsy
Patsy on May 20, 2012 at 6:08 pm

generalenigma: How is the Riviera Theatre listed on the site you posted on 12/18/10?

jmichalec
jmichalec on May 20, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Well, guys, the Stone Theatre goes to a city auction on Thursday morning May 24, 2012. The owner abandoned the property, but no before allowing the roof to fall apart. The interior is completely destroyed and I mean that in the fullest sense. This is a shell requiring millions to restore. May God invoke a miracle sugar daddy on Thursday.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on January 24, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Great looking Marquee.And thanks for the pictures.Guys.

generalenigma
generalenigma on January 24, 2011 at 4:17 pm

To Bobc007 — thanks for the link to your documentary on The Uptown Theatre in Washington DC … I really enjoyed it. Looks like an impressive theatre. Jim Macumber

bobc007
bobc007 on December 23, 2010 at 1:07 pm

A note to Jim Macumber, I’ll write more at a later time. It’s always nice to meet a Bond fan. I’ve been to the Crest many times. In fact the first movie I saw there was the 007 movie, The Man With The Golden Gun. As I mentioned in my earlier posting, I believe the economics of a big movie palace being run today as only a movie theatre would be a huge hurdle. But make no mistake, I would love to see it happen. There are some exceptions, of course. One is the Uptown Theatre in Washington DC. I had the honor to work there as a projectionist during the early 1980s. It’s still open and doing a healthy business. I have produced a short documentary about the Uptown that you can see here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwPO7JPdKCY

shadowsandrust
shadowsandrust on December 22, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Some recent work was done on the theater, as evidenced by some tools and supplies left sitting there. However, the roof still has a gaping hole and weather threatens to really damage what is left of the place. Two projectors are still in place and the third is in a closet off the projection booth. Another small room holds what I believe was an editor, but it is under caved-in roof pieces. Small bits of film are still visible in the rubble.

generalenigma
generalenigma on December 18, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Note to ALL & in particular “Bobc007”: it is certainly correct to point out that it was not “greed” on the part of the original theatre businesses that has allowed this “demolition by neglect” to occur. However, I still think that today if these theatres were still in any kind of decent, renewable shape movies could still be shown & a fair business could be run with proper promotion & management. The responsibility for the “demolition by neglect” rests with the absentee landlords who owned but did not make any attempt to maintain these old buildings —– allowing roofs & windows & back doors to deteriorate to where the elements constantly tore in & subjected the buildings to interior destruction as well as pidgeons with their helpful contributions & also intrusions by homeless people & others for shelter or mischief. (Landlords are not forced into this kind of neglect … they are responsible for it!!! Fran Robinson, who is EIGHTY YEARS OLD & STILL owns The Cameo Theatre on Robinson Street, goes into the theatre once a week still to keep an eye on things & tries to mantain the building.) If you look at the interior photos of both the Riviera & the Strand ….. available on-line at http://nyslandmarks.com/treasures/ ….. , they are obviously way beyond any imaginable repair or restoration. That is sad …. but unavoidable now. I wish it were not so but there it is … The businesses closed & the multiplexes moved in & built their complexes with the gradual loss of the old theatre owners' business viability. (It was Cinema National which I believe ran most of the theatres throughout the Triple Cities at the end … with the exception of a couple of independents … having inherited that mantle from The Carrols Corporation & Comerford Theatres of Scranton, Pa before them.) So again … you are correct that it was not greed on the part of the theatres … but sad nonetheless & as I always say, “How I miss our old theatres!” [ … and by the way Bob, I too am a Bond Fan !!! and for your understanding, I am 61 years old & have have lived in the Binghamton area all my life & knew all our theatres well ,,, even to having an opportunity one fine evening in 1977 of spending two hours with the projectionist in his booth at The Crest Theatre to talk to him & learned in the process all about the busy job a projectionist had in that era showing a “six-reeler] Jim Macumber

bobc007
bobc007 on December 18, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Regarding the above comment that says these theatres “were ruined by greed and neglect.” First, I have been in the movie theatre business since 1973. As a teenager I went to the Riviera to see “Patton” in 1970. I was born in Binghamton, but was not raised there. That said, several of the movie theatres I have had a chance to work in or even manage are like many of the theatres listed in Cinema Treasures. I love these theatres and it breaks my heart to see them end up this way. But one must keep the following in mind and understand it; These theatres were built as businesses by businessmen. They were not built to be temples to the motion picture that would last for
ever. They were to be great places to see a movie that would attract customers! For decades, they did attract a lot of customers. But then in the 1950s along came TV. In the 1960s, people decided they would rather live in the suburbs instead of downtown. So, since they didn’t live in town anymore, they stopped coming to the movies downtown. They went to newer theatres that were being built in the suburbs where they lived. And so the audience for these great movie palaces dried up. But it wasn’t just the theatres that fell on hard times. Look at the other store fronts in downtown areas. I was in Binghamton in June of 2009 and went to see the site of the Strand and Riviera. It was depressing to see these once great theatres left to wither away. But there were also many storefronts nearby that were vacant. In fact, it looked like the restaurant that was in the lobby of the Strand Theatre was closed for good. Movie theatres operate today on an average profit margin of about 3%. That includes selling popcorn and a soda for $10! At a 3% profit, you can’t say “greed” is why these theatres closed. They closed just like most businesses do. When the customers go away, so do the businesses. It’s a shame, too. I’d love to run one of these old theatres as a movie theatre today. But in today’s world where the public wants a choice of 12 or 20 movies to see at one location, it would be nearly impossible. Sorry to be so long winded, but I had to respond to the earlier post. It wasn’t or isn’t greed. It’s just the evolution of society. Sometimes that evolution is pretty. Sometimes it’s not. Regarding these wonderful old theatres, it’s not.

BILLYBOYOK
BILLYBOYOK on June 28, 2010 at 4:21 pm

There is a book available at Amazon.com, titled “BINGHAMTON (NY) (IMAGES OF AMERICA), by Ed Aswad and Suzanne M. Meredith.

The website allows you to search for specific items concerning this book. Search for the small box on the left hand side of the page

Type in “STONE OPERA HOUSE” It’s on Page 92 of the book.
There are 2 photos of the Theater. One shows it back in the 1890’s. Notice that there is NO building to it’s left, where the Strand Theater is now.

The second photo will take your breath away!!!

It’s shows one of the most beautiful, opulent stages that I HAVE EVER SEEN!!! Must be from the 1890’s or very early 1900’s?

I could cry when I see how it looks now and how grand and luxurious it once was.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments?

I’m a former resident of Broome County. The old Riviera and Capitol
Theaters were ruined by greed and total, useless neglect.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on February 27, 2010 at 11:51 am

The shared marquee pretty good idea.Never seen that before.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on February 15, 2010 at 10:49 am

The Stone Opera House is listed under Binghamton in the 1897-98 edition of the Julius Cahn Official Theatrical Guide. The Mgr. was J. Clark. No seating capacity is listed. Ticket prices ranged from 25 cents to $1. The theater had both gas and electric illumination and was on the ground floor. There were 6 – 8 members of the house orchestra. The proscenium opening was 35 feet wide X 34 feet high, and the stage was 42 feet deep. The theater had “a big scene room”. There were 3 daily newspapers and 3 weeklies. Hotels for show folk were the Bennett, Arlington, Exchange, Crandall and Lewis. The 1897 population was 45,000. There was also a Bijou Theatre in Binghamton with 800 seats. It had a smaller stage.

deleted user
[Deleted] on November 27, 2009 at 7:49 am

No problem. Actually, some of the other fixtures were removed and purchased by a local dealer. The rest still sit in the theater.

Patsy
Patsy on November 25, 2009 at 8:04 pm

MikeR: Thanks for your on site report as to the deterioration of this once great theatre. I, too, hope that it can be resurrected as the diamond-shaped wall lighting fixtures and ornate railings sound really nice….amazing that they are still there!

deleted user
[Deleted] on November 25, 2009 at 7:50 pm

I have a friend who was with the work crew that was repairing the roof earlier this year. I was able to get permission through him to see the inside of the Riviera. The deterioration was unbelievable. Fallen plaster, animal waste, dead birds, and dirt and grime were everywhere. Some of the original seating is still in there, as well as some of the diamond-shaped wall lighting fixtures and ornate railings. Some of the decorative wall plaster is left as well. The original carbon-arc projectors are still sitting up in the projection booth, as well as some loose strips of film. It was like stepping back in time. The area that was in the best condition was above the storefront’s drop ceiling. The plasterwork was in considerably better condition in this area. I really hope they can resurrect this theater, if possible.

generalenigma
generalenigma on October 16, 2009 at 6:36 pm

I am planning on attending this presentation on Weds Oct 21st, too. Anyone who has contributed here and also attends, please take a moment to introduce yourself & say “Hi”. I will be wearing a “Binghamton Classic Films” name tag. Jim Macumber