Regal Riviera Stadium 8
510 South Gay Street,
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The all new Regal Riviera Stadium 8 stands on the site of the long lost, jazz-era Riviera Theatre. There are approximately 2000 seats divided between the eight auditoriums. Regal’s Riviera opened on August 31, 2007, and is the first new downtown cinema in Knoxville since the Roxy Theatre was built in the 1930’s. Regal partnered with the city of Knoxville to finance the roughly twelve million dollar facility.
With two “golden age” theatres on the same street (the Tennessee q.v. and the Bijou q.v.), both absolute jewels of their type, unfavorable comparisons between them and this new facility are going to be difficult to avoid.
In the new Regal Riviera, the architects have made conscious references to movie palace style. To be charitable, we hope the designer’s hand was constrained by budget here, not lack of talent. The E.I.F.S. facade aspiring to Rapp & Rapp grandure achieves an effect more like a teenager in a powder blue tux: we can squirm at the naive attempt at formality and still be proud of the kid. It really is a genuine joy to have a movie theatre in downtown again, even if it looks a little silly trying so hard and so unsuccessfully to imitate its elders. Certainly the Regal Riviera has more joie d'vivre than Chattanooga’s unfortunate Carmike Bijou parking garage/bus station/movie theatre built in the last decade.
The new Riviera has a heavy, E.I.F.S. marquee without changeable letter boards. The marquee’s underside is faced with pressed-tin ceiling panels looking suspiciously Victorian on a vaguely (let me emphasize the word vaguely) neo-Baroque building. There is a handsome little vertical sign based on the design of the old Riviera’s. This new one has blue/white LED lights cascading upward (!) making it look a bit like a bubbling test tube. A new alley has been created to provide a walkway from Gay Street to State Street and the large State Street Garage where free parking (with purchase of a movie ticket) is available. Triple escalators assist with the elevation change down to State Street.
Possibly most surprising and most disappointing is that the main facade has been set back from the sidewalk about five feet. The side walls project to the traditional building line creating a facade in antis and hiding the vertical sign from view except when standing on the opposite side of Gay Street. It is reported in the local paper that this was a zoning requirement, but if so, a variance should have been forthcoming for such a prominent building.
Knoxville is the home of Regal Cinemas and the new Regal Riviera Stadium 8 provides a fine new theatre serving the downtown, south Knoxville and near east sides. If the architecture is less than stellar, the effort to further strengthen an area that was until quite recently blighted, more than makes up for the building’s aesthetic shortcomings.
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