4746 N. Racine Avenue,
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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.
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