Riviera Theatre

4746 N. Racine Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60640

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Riviera Theater

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Riviera Theatre was the largest and most ornate of the movie theaters of the Uptown neighborhood until the opening of the Uptown Theatre almost a decade later. Opened in 1918 at a cost of well over half a million dollars (delayed by almost two years due to WW I), this Rapp & Rapp-designed house located on Racine Avenue between Broadway and Lawrence Avenue, originally seated well over 2500 and its building also featured eight storefronts and over 30 apartments.

Initially the Riviera was to have been operated by the Jones, Linick & Schaefer chain, which operated several Loop movie houses in the 10s and 20s such as the Orpheum, the Rialto, and the McVickers. However, the Riviera ended up becoming the second major theater of the Balaban & Katz circuit, which at the time also included the Central Park, now regarded as Chicago’s first true “movie palace”.

Featuring movies accompanied by an orchestra, the Riviera also featured “high class” musical acts onstage. The theater mainly catered to the upper-middle class residents of the Uptown area, especially women. The Riviera continued to remain one of the neighborhood’s most popular movie houses for decades, even once the almost 4500-seat Uptown Theatre opened just down the street.

After closing as a movie theater in the mid-1980s, it became first a nightclub, and a few years later, after the nightclub closed, one of Chicago’s most popular concert venues, as it remains today.

It still has a feel of faded elegance to it, and in 2000 the concert hall was named one of the historically important structures making up the Uptown Square National Historic District.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 76 comments)

DavidZornig on November 19, 2008 at 1:51 pm

Passed by the Riviera today. It had some newer looking, protective white tarps over the top span of the front wall, oer the marquee.
Same as the Uptown still has. Though the Uptown’s upper terra cotta arches had been removed a while back.

A good sign that both are being protected from the elements, until brick/facade work can be done.

Bway on December 25, 2009 at 6:28 pm

I just saw the film, “The Break Up” with Jennifer Aniston, and there is a great scene involving the Riviera, you can see a lot of it.

Ramova7719 on August 12, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Like the Rivieras facebook page! Its Riviera Theatre Chicago IL

rivest266 on June 26, 2012 at 5:12 pm

This opened on October 2nd, 1918. It’s grand opening ad is in the photo section for this theatre.

John P Keating Jr
John P Keating Jr on October 16, 2012 at 10:07 am

I was in the Riveria during Open House Chicago last Sunday. It is in very bad shape with many bars throught the main floor. The floors are sticky and the whole building is dirty including the washrooms. The balcony still has the theater seats. It seems that the owners are squeezing every pennny form the building and the concert goers have no idea what an elegant venue this was.

CSWalczak on October 16, 2012 at 10:52 am

This is what I fear the Uptown will become – trashed, as a so-called “music venue”. Additionally, consider what what has happened at the Congress and what soon might happen to the Portage.

RickB on May 25, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Cited for code violations re fire escape and exterior walls. DNAInfo story here.

DavidZornig on May 31, 2016 at 5:29 pm

1923 photo added via the Calumet 412 facebook page.

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