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 theatres 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 World War I), this Rapp & Rapp-designed house located on N. Racine Avenue between Broadway and W. Lawrence Avenue, originally seated well over 2,500 and its building also featured eight storefronts and over 30 apartments.

Initially the Riviera Theatre was to have been operated by the Jones, Linick & Schaefer chain, which operated several Loop movie houses in the 1910’s and 1920’s such as the Orpheum Theatre, the Rialto Theatre, and the McVickers Theatre. However, the Riviera Theatre ended up becoming the second major theatre of the Balaban & Katz circuit, which at the time also included the Central Park Theatre, now regarded as Chicago’s first true “movie palace”.

Featuring movies accompanied by an orchestra, the Riviera Theatre also featured “high class” musical acts on stage. The theatre mainly catered to the upper-middle class residents of the Uptown area, especially women. The Riviera Theatre continued to remain one of the neighborhood’s most popular movie houses for decades, even once the almost 4,500-seat Uptown Theatre opened just down the street.

After closing as a movie theatre in the mid-1980’s, 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 77 comments)

DavidZornig on November 19, 2008 at 4:51 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 9:28 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 9:46 pm

Like the Rivieras facebook page! Its Riviera Theatre Chicago IL

rivest266 on June 26, 2012 at 8:12 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 1:07 pm

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 1:52 pm

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 8:23 pm

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

DavidZornig on May 31, 2016 at 8:29 pm

1923 photo added via the Calumet 412 facebook page.

rivest266 on December 26, 2017 at 5:02 pm

Air Conditioning ad as found by Texas Two Step.

Found on Newspapers.com

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