Riviera Theatre

4746 N. Racine Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60640

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Showing 1 - 25 of 75 comments

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on May 31, 2016 at 9:29 pm

1923 photo added via the Calumet 412 facebook page.

RickB
RickB on May 25, 2013 at 9:23 pm

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

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on October 16, 2012 at 2:52 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.

John P Keating Jr
John P Keating Jr on October 16, 2012 at 2:07 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.

rivest266
rivest266 on June 26, 2012 at 9:12 pm

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

Ramova7719
Ramova7719 on August 12, 2011 at 10:46 pm

Like the Rivieras facebook page! Its Riviera Theatre Chicago IL

Bway
Bway on December 26, 2009 at 12:28 am

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.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on November 19, 2008 at 7:51 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.

Broan
Broan on September 1, 2008 at 1:18 pm

Actually given the billboard I suppose that would be 90s

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on August 19, 2008 at 10:50 pm

Ah The Riv. This place could still be the ultimate, if it would just get some cosmetics done. Concert business has cleary kept it alive. I’ve seen so many shows there I can’t even remember which were films and which were concerts. Robert Palmer, Cheap Trick years back on New Years, etc. (Noticed they had seats from the Granada in the balcony.)
My last was The Pretenders last Christmas. Which unfortunately we were not told was a Toys-For-Tots show, so we arrived empty handed.
All we could do was say “Hi” to WXRT’s Terri Hemmert.

Back in the `80’s, there was a brazen armed robbery of whoever ran the then Riviera niteclub. The newspapers later reported that it was an inside job. When pictures they ran surfaced of the alleged thieves laying on a bed of money.

In the early `90’s, then Chicago Bull Cliff Levingston reportedly bought the Riviera. But he was unfortunately traded from the team days later. So I don’t think he ever took over.

As I get older, I kind of wish these places didn’t remove all the main level seats. It’s what make the House Of Blues only viable if you pop for the dinner packages. I know I’m in no way their main cash cow audience, but I think it’s why bands like Steely Dan & Ray Davies now play the Chicago Theatre. The Congress also removed all the main floor seats. Surely essentially costing themselves the recent roller derby revival. Which re-opened on their floor, and coincidentally in Chicago in the 1920’s. Yeah, yeah I went.
They had an original roller girl in her 80’s there. And initially seats.
A friend told me once Natalie Merchant apologized to the audience at one of the two, for the conditions of the house. Which ever one she doesn’t play at again we’ll know.

The Riviera I’m pretty sure did a short late `70’s stint as a revival house, similar to the Parkway & Music Box. Mixed double features of cult classics.
Had the nearby Uptown not succumbed to all that befell it since 1981, The Riviera might itself now be dormant. But it’s a trooper. “Faded Elegance” can certainly be reversed with money and vision though.

Broan
Broan on August 15, 2008 at 4:55 pm

Some sort of work is going on with the Riv’s facade:
View link

Broan
Broan on May 12, 2008 at 2:47 pm

Here are some blog posts on the Riv restoration:

View link
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Also, a couple on the proposed multiplex across from the Aragon:

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SPearce
SPearce on April 24, 2008 at 1:44 pm

Thank you. I see the tour schedules don’t quite fit my schedule, but I will know how to check the neighborhoods.

Scott
Scott on April 24, 2008 at 12:45 pm

Here is a list of all of the architectural tours by the Chicago Architectural Foundation. The tours for neighborhoods and theaters are spotty, so there may not be anything available for next weekend. You may have to go on your own. Have fun!

http://www.architecture.org/tours.aspx

SPearce
SPearce on April 24, 2008 at 2:19 am

I plan to visit Chicago next week. I would like to walk some of the north side theater areas. Is there a recommended theater or architectural tour for this? Thank you.

Broan
Broan on March 15, 2008 at 9:52 pm

Village Entertainment operator Ron Rooding got his start at the Riv when it turned into a nightclub.

SPearce
SPearce on February 25, 2008 at 3:02 am

Thanks. That is wonderful to learn that the area there is being restored. (BTW, what is the condition of the seats in the Riviera?) I can’t picture Goldblatt’s (but, of course, know the store) yet had to have known it because I walked that block and worked at Woolworth’s farther down the street which was in the building evidently razed and left as a parking lot. I can’t remember the west side of Broadway from the bank to Wilson, but can remember some of the shops on the east side of the street.

I agree with you. “My church” was an imposing marker structure and it should have been replaced with another “significant” structure for a number of reasons.

Another thought just came to me. In the area of the church, on the east side of Broadway, was there a terminal or parking garage for taxis?

Scott
Scott on February 25, 2008 at 1:53 am

The Y-intersection you mention across the street from the Riviera has been given a huge restoration and make-over the past 5 years. There were three connected buildings that made the Goldblatt’s department store from the 1930s until the late 1990s. At that point, the masonry building toward the south was torn down and rebuilt as condos (it is a shame because that beautiful building should have been restored). The middle building and corner building toward the north were restored and turned into a Borders bookstore and more condos.

The Buena Memorial church was at the Y-intersection you mention at Montrose and Broadway. That building had a structural flaw and the roof collapsed in the mid-1990s. The remaining walls of the church were torn down and the lot sat empty for years. Just recently, a non-descript condo building was built on the site. It is too bad, because that site deserves a building that is architecturally significant like the old church.

SPearce
SPearce on February 25, 2008 at 1:35 am

Ah!…the Riviera!

I can’t add much here except to say I join in that it is wonderful this theater was saved, and evidently the corner is being dealt respect, and it would seem it really could revitalize and restore the integrity of the neighborhood. Has there ever been talk of restoring with some sense of continuity, in even a mild way, all of Broadway from, say, Diversey to Uptown?

What I remember about the Riviera Theater is that I liked it somewhat more, or found it more beautiful and satisfying for me, than the Uptown, special though the Uptown is – just personal preference. (It may be that the Riviera had something about it that reminded me of a theater I visited in San Francisco when I was young; not sure.) Thanks for the photos of the beautiful interior. I seem to recall something about the ceiling in the foyer above the bar now that I see the photo. Don’t the approximately 1900 seats make the Riviera a jewel of a venue? Anyone – if it was a vaudeville house first, does its construct lend itself to fairly effective accoustics, or is it miked as if it has none?

Stopped attending the Riviera in the early ‘60s though, and invariably, somewhat sadly, went to the Uptown or elsewhere, simply because the fare offered at the Riviera was not satisfying on any given night to me by then. I do not remember what was offered at the Riviera, and I did always check it, longingly, hoping I could justify buying a ticket, but always ended up elsewhere by '61. I am wondering if the Riviera changed ownership about that time, and whomever owned it booked the horror shows, or others?

I keep thinking that the Riviera closed for a time, maybe a few seasons, in the mid ‘60s or later. I thought that at one point, I couldn’t even look to see if anything was playing there because it wasn’t showing anything – that would have been by 1970. Maybe it just ceased to show movies.

Noticed the postcard of the bank at the “Y” intersection on a number of the Chicago history websites but couldn’t place it. Now it comes back – it was across from the Riviera, and it still was that building in the ‘60s, maybe only slightly modified, but still there. I think it was some other type of financial establishment then, rather than a straight bank, and I think its double doors opened right at the “Y” intersection, and may have had brass details on them. That building was worthy of restoration. I liked to walk down that side of the street, along that building, because it reminded me of bank buildings in my hometown in California; this one was always kept up. I thought it was the most aesthetically pleasing building on the west side of Broadway down to Wilson.

(BTW, there were a number of “Y” corners or blocks coming north up Broadway from about Diversey. I am thinking of the block at Broadway and Montrose. Also sort of in the reverse, one just to the west of Diversey and Broadway. They kind of gave the north side of Chicago, up Broadway, a sort of splendor, as if saying how great Chicago could be in its construction when it wanted to be, and that Chicago could appreciate and incorporate the finest aesthetic beauty too. Remember the scene in the movie version of “The Philadelphia Story” when MacCaulay Connor (Jimmy Stewart) says to Tracy Samantha Lord Haven (Katherine Hepburn) something about “…there’s an unholy splendor about you…”? But I wax nostalgic.

The name “Peter Pan” seems familiar. The photos of the pancake house call to me to remember that site in the ‘60s (if not a pancake house, what; maybe a cocktail lounge or restaurant?). Not sure.

In the mid-‘60s, about '65, maybe '64, Bobby Rydell appeared at the Aragon Ballroom on an afternoon – maybe a Saturday. Filled with younger youths who were very noisy. Don’t think Bobby was expecting that, and he had to tell them to be quiet or he wouldn’t sing (and I think he lip-synched anyway). If I remember right, management had to tell them to “smoke outside,” and there was some extra little chuckle about that. I always liked Bobby Rydell; though he was the headliner, there were other acts, but I don’t remember them.

Thank you again for the photos. (Some of the early links are bringing up page error now.)

Scott
Scott on February 16, 2008 at 3:37 am

I checked again and I was able to see the 1924 photo. In the 1957 photo, there is a Peter Pan clothing store on the first floor retail space.

I am so happy that the Riviera theater never was “modernized!”

What is the story on the bar on the main floor in the Riviera? It looks old, but it cannot be older the the 1980s. Was it just designed to go with the rest of the interior?

Broan
Broan on February 16, 2008 at 2:08 am

The enameled steel panels were indeed just modernization, and the Riviera itself had a similar treatment proposed – good thing that never came through! I will have to check out the photo you mention.

I don’t know of any reason why you wouldn’t be able to see the photos. They should be visible to anyone.

Scott
Scott on February 15, 2008 at 10:45 pm

I agree, this renovation is better than any of us could have expected for this building. You are right about the windows. Also, the window details are too thin when compared with the originals. I wish that contemporary window manufacturers could duplicate the thicknesses used on vintage windows. It would make restoration projects look much better.

BW, I tried to open your photos from your Dec. 3 comment, but it says that I need permission to view them (this is after signing into Yahoo). Can you tell me how to view the photos.

By the way, the Jewel at Broadway and Montrose has a great photograph of the Riviera building from about 1957. It shows all of the details perfectly. Until I saw this photo, I assumed that the facade was put up sometime in the 1930s, but it was put up after 1957. From the photo, the building does not look like it was in bad condition. I guess they wanted to “modernize” it.