Riviera Theatre

1560 South Dixie Highway,
Coral Gables, FL 33146

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Riviera Theatre

Opened on February 16, 1956, the Loew’s Riviera Theatre was one of the first shopping center suburban theatres in the country and the first new build allowed Loew’s after it’s divorce from MGM and the Paramount Consent Decrees. The Loew’s Riviera Theatre was well supported by it’s proximity to the University of Miami and the main traffic artery of US 1. The journey from downtown would have taken minutes in the 1950’s. The opening feature, “Picnic”, was dated with Radio City Music Hall. Seating in the single screen theatre was provided for 1,281, with 1,015 in the orchestra level and 216 seats in the loge (which was a smoking area). There were large murals of tropical plants along the auditorium side-walls.

I never went in when it became a five-plex, but the GCC twinning could only be described as criminal.

On a recent visit to Miami I saw an advertisement for the furniture showroom which took over the building, saying they would show a movie while you tried out the furniture. Might the projectors still be there? It was taken over by the Area Stage Company in 2008 who now use one auditorium with a total seating capacity for 300. in 2016 the other space is now a dance studio.

Contributed by Al Alvarez

Recent comments (view all 28 comments)

rivest266 on January 17, 2010 at 10:02 am

Let’s try that again, View link

TLSLOEWS on April 21, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Nice opening day ad,Mike.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 23, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Here is an article, with plenty of photos, in Boxoffoce magazine from April 7, 1956:
View link

Ripshin on July 13, 2012 at 10:48 am

OK, a portion of the original theater is now the Area Stage Company – Google for the web site. What confuses me, is what part of the original theater do they actually occupy? On the Google Street Map, it is clear that there are now windows on the top section of the old auditorium. Perhaps they lowered the ceiling, and created offices at the top? The Area Stage web site shows a large auditorium, but it seats only 275, but with a large “stage.” I’m guessing that it might be the old balcony, but extended. When I attended films there in the mid-80s, as a UM student – they had separated the balcony into two (?) other theaters. Does anybody know?

David_Schneider on January 10, 2016 at 2:00 pm

I lived two blocks behind the Riviera in the 1990’s and frequented regularly. In the early 90’s there was a box office attendant whom I went to U.M. with who looked a lot like a young Paul McCartney. In the mid-90’s there was another employee, a young artistic guy (possibly named Rene?), who would do murals on the ceiling of the lobby for big anticipated films featuring super heroes like Batman or science fiction characters like Star Trek.

I remember standing in a line that extended down the sidewalk all the way to Spec’s Music for the opening of “Independence Day” (sometimes abbreviated “ID4” in the advertising) right before July 4th, 1996. (After being in business for decades Spec’s closed in maybe 2013 and the Spec’s building was demolished and replaced by a Chase bank. Swensen’s restaurant next to it is still there. CD Solution next to that closed years ago and became part of Crown Wine & Spirits.) Other films I saw at the Riviera included “Forrest Gump”, “Star Trek: First Contact”, “X-Files: Fight The Future”… I may have seen a film there as a last hurrah a day or so before the Riviera closed though I can’t remember the name.

When the AMC Sunset Place 24 opened down the street I heard the Riviera might try to find a niche showing independent and foreign films, but it soon closed.

The front/lobby part became a piano store for maybe two years, and has since been a women’s fashion store. The front doors to the fashion store were the front doors to the theater lobby. The windows that jut out to the left of the front doors between the front doors and the breezeway is where the box office used to be. The triangular marquee still stands out front where the parking lot meets US-1. It and the remaining poster boxes in the breezeway advertise what plays are being performed on the stage that was constructed in the back portion of the theater at the end of the breezeway. (I was in there once to see a film being shown for one screening by an organization concerned about the Congo, but I couldn’t recognize anything that looked left over from the Riviera, as if this new stage/theater may have completely replaced what had been there before, or maybe what was left over was too out of context for me to notice.) The entrance to the stage/theater may be where the side doors to the Riviera lobby were that emptied into the breezeway.

Once, after seeing a film in the then recently opened (and short lived) Mercury Cinema (later Soyka, north of downtown Miami near NE 55th Street and Biscayne Blvd.), I stood chatting with one of the owners after everyone else had left. I mentioned the Riviera and he asked me if I find the seats in his new theater comfortable. I asked why and he said, “I hope you do, cause they’re from the Riviera”.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 10, 2016 at 8:16 pm

The furniture showroom is apparently gone. Here is the web site of the Area Stage Company, the live theater group founded in 1989 which moved into the Riviera Theatre in 2008. They still call the venue the Riviera Theatre and still use the theater’s original address.

Ripshin on January 14, 2016 at 4:32 am

Yes, the current Google Streetviews are dated May 2015, and show the women’s store in what was the lobby, as David mentioned above.

David, I was in the San Remo Apartments a few blocks behind the theater, from ‘83 – '85. Make sure that you read ALL of the comments – some are hidden.

David_Schneider on January 31, 2016 at 1:11 pm

I attended a live performance of the play “The Nether” here on January 30th, 2016.

There is one auditorium and another space used as a dance studio. I asked a person whom I was told was one of the owners and she said that “only the pit” from one of the original Riviera Cinema auditoriums was used which was then otherwise “completely redone” to create the Area Stage Company auditorium. … The staircase that goes left and right from the doorway to the auditorium down to the seating felt familiar to me but nothing else was recognizable.

Here is what their auditorium looks like.

The place is not in the business of exhibiting films though some digital projection was an element in the live performance I saw. (Also as I mentioned in my previous post I had seen a documentary there when an organization rented the auditorium for one evening some years ago.) A tech booth is next to the doorway/staircase (not where a projection booth would traditionally be in a cinema) with a digital projector suspended near the ceiling above the seats.

What had been the Riviera Cinema rear/side exit into the breezeway is actually now a rear exit of the Aleren women’s fashion store which occupies the former lobby of the cinema.

The entrance to the Area Stage Company is just beyond this former rear exit of the cinema at the end of the breezeway. There’s a small office building-type lobby with an elevator, staircase and menu board for offices upstairs (some for businesses unrelated to the stage company), with the doors to the stage company lobby at the back of the office building-type lobby.

On my way home I looked through the front doors of the Aleren women’s fashion store which had been the front doors to the Riviera Cinema. I could recognize the shape of the ceiling from the Riviera Cinema lobby where the guy I mentioned in my previous post had created his murals. The register in the center of Aleren is approximately where the Riviera’s concession stand had been.

Ripshin: Yes I had seen your comment that you had lived in San Remo, which is why I thought to mention I had lived two blocks behind the Riviera (in Chateau Riviera actually, next to San Remo, from 1991-98) in my original post. :) Both buildings are still there but I believe San Remo “went condo” a few years ago while Chateau is still apartments.

David_Schneider on January 13, 2017 at 12:32 pm

I have created a Cinema Treasures page for the first theatre in the area to be named Riviera, which was briefly open in the mid-1920’s just south of this Riviera, before becoming part of the Holsum bakery.

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