River Hills/Riviera Twin

222 Crocker Street,
Des Moines, IA 50309

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Riviera Theatre

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The River Hills/Riviera Twin is a rare example of two theaters, in the same building, which operated under different names; and not as a twin.

The River Hills side was designed to show Cinerama films and the Riviera Twin side was designed to show regular movies in a twin configuration.

The theaters were built by the former Davis Theatres at the same time as the Riviera in Sioux City.

Sadly, the River Hills/Riviera Twin was recently closed by Carmike Cinemas.

Contributed by Mike Geater

Recent comments (view all 15 comments)

edigman on July 18, 2008 at 4:43 pm

I very much miss the River Hills Theater, with its huge curved screen, and spaceship blue-green metal flaked vinyl upholstery. It opened in 1968 with “2001: A Space Odyssey”. I remember the day I saw that movie there, and the year, because, after the movie let out, I walked a short distance downtown, and happened to meet presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy, who was coming out of a building on Grand Avenue after giving a speech. When the building was torn down, I retrieved several of the letters that spelled out “River Hills” and “Riviera”, and a small piece of the wall, which I still have.

Coate on March 25, 2009 at 8:56 am

RIVER HILLS did not open with “2001: A Space Odyssey” as claimed in the post above. It opened with a reserved-seat run of “Mediterranean Holiday” on April 19, 1968. (“2001” followed the booking of “Mediterranean Holiday on June 26, 1968.)

The RIVIERA half of the complex opened a week before the RIVER HILLS half on April 12, 1968, with the debut attraction being “Where Angels Go…Trouble Follows.”

Coate on April 7, 2009 at 2:37 pm

Sorry, Chuck1231, I don’t have any info on the screen size or dimensions.

Coate on April 7, 2009 at 2:59 pm

River Hills is famous for being the host venue for the Des Moines area exclusive booking of the original “Star Wars.” The movie ran for 29 weeks in the River Hills auditorium (May 27-Dec. 13, 1977), and then when replaced by “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind” it moved to the Riviera auditorium, where it ran for another 27 weeks. The combined 56-week run is, I believe, second only to the 113-week roadshow run of “The Sound Of Music” (at the Capri) as the longest-running movie in Des Moines exhibition history.

Coate on May 18, 2009 at 1:03 pm

The Cinerama exhibition history in Des Moines posted here.

rodmo71 on June 22, 2009 at 4:54 pm

As mentioned earlier, the Wells Fargo Arena now stands where the River Hills/Rivera Twin used to be.

rodmo71 on June 30, 2009 at 4:42 pm

This theater should be changed to closed/demolished

rodmo71 on June 30, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Newspaper ad from the Des Moines Register, May 27,1977

“Begins Tonight! Star Wars. Star Wars will presented with DOLBY SOUND a special new sound system that the River Hills has installed that will astound your mind with the ULTIMATE QUAD SYSTEM. Adults $3.00, Children under 12 $1.25”

Playing at the Riviera Twin- The Godfather and The Godfather Part II.

Cinerama on February 9, 2012 at 10:50 am

Ads for films playing at the theatre – http://cineramahistory.com/riverhills.htm

JHays on September 13, 2012 at 9:01 am

I use to work there back in the mid to late 70’s! Great memories of when movies ran…for a YEAR! Like Star Wars. I remember the 1 year anniversary. We employees got dressed up like the characters.

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