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Originally built as the Assembly Hall in 1825, it became the first venue in the town to show films. Designed by architect Andrew Patey, externally the building is a fine example of the Classical style with a colonade at street level and a series of ten pilasters across the facade in beween windows. There is a central pediment over the main entrance. The ballroom above the Assembly Hall was converted into a cinema in 1914 and was named the Riviera Cinema.
In 1933-1934 the interior of the building was structurally altered and converted into a cinema which opened as the Riviera Cinema on 16th July 1934 with Jack Hulbert in "Jack Ahoy". It now had a total of 901 seats, 586 in the stalls and 315 in the circle. The Art Deco style auditorium was designed by architect Howard Williams. The proscenium was 45 feet wide, behind which was a stage. There was also a cafe incorporated in the building which could seat 80 diners and a roof garden on top of the building. In the mid-1940’s the Riviera Cinema came under the control of the independent Mayfair Cinemas (Control) Ltd.
In 1970, the cinema was closed for alterations to form a two-tier building. An amusement arcade occupied the ground floor, whilst a 520 seat cinema was created in the former circle area, which had been extended forward.
The Riviera Cinema closed on 26th March 2000 with Allan Corduner in "Topsy-Turvy" and Ralph Fiennes “The End of the Affair”. The reason for closure being a huge rental hike from the landlords. The building lay empty for a while, then planning applications were proposed to build luxury flats on the top of the building (where the roof garden used to be) and to re-furbish and re-open the cinema. Despite much opposition to the conversion, these were defeated and the flats were built, but to date, the cinema has not re-opened. It was converted into a church in 2017.
The Riviera Cinema is a Grade II Listed building.
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