Rose Blumkin Performing Arts Center

2001 Farnam Street,
Omaha, NE 68102

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Riviera Theatre exterior

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Built in 1926, as the Riviera Theatre, the Paramount, as it was known just three years after opening, was distinctive for its unusual Moorish and Italian Renaissance architecture, a combination seldom seen in the Midwest.

Designed by nationally known theater architect John Eberson, its exterior focal point is a large copper domed tower, flanked by two smaller towers of similar detailing. The diamond-patterned brick facades contain oriel windows, elaborate cornices, glazed terra-cotta tile copings, and a series of free-standing columns which support griffens.

The courtyard atmospheric interior, labeled Hispano-Italian by Eberson, had a sky-like domed ceiling painted dark blue with small, recessed incandescent twinkling lights simulating stars on a tropical night, with artificial fleecy clouds. The lower lobby had water funtains and aquariums filled with goldfish. The orchestra pit and theater organ could be raised or lowered with hydraulic jacks. Both stage productions and motion pictures were presented.

In 1960, the theater’s name was changed to the Astro. The huge corner wrap-around marquee, which had become a problem to maintain, was covered by a vinyl material and a single large name and program sign erected above the corner.

The theater closed in the early 1980s, and in the late 1990s faced the wrecking ball. Most fortunately, Mrs. Rose Blumkin, a wealthy Omaha business woman, purchased it from Creighton University and completely restored the theater to its original opulence. The theater reopened as the the Rose Blumkin Peforming Arts Center, after its savior.

The theater is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Contributed by Richard Pittenger

Recent comments (view all 36 comments)

Patsy
Patsy on August 20, 2006 at 12:21 pm

I just viewed the Nov.28,03 b/w photo that shows the original wrap around marquee and the vertical RIVIERA sign…wish it could look like that today as those vertical signs were most impressive and when lighted at night it would have been an awesome sight. At the Shea’s in Buffalo a reproduction vertical sign that reads BUFFALO has returned to its rightful place and I marvel at that sign each time I walk towards the theatre doors. I’m looking for an interior photo(s) now.

MidnightBlue
MidnightBlue on August 23, 2006 at 2:11 pm

The mosaic floors in the former lounges and in the lobby have all been restored. I heard that a vertical marquee had been in the original plans for the renovation, but it was not done, I believe because of cost. If you look closely, you can still see the places along the corner of the building’s exterior where the vertical marquee was attached. The original vertical marquee starred in a 1927 newspaper ad advertising the power of the electric sign to draw customers to one’s business. At the time, lighted signs were rare, and businesspeople actually had to be persuaded to add one! The ad appeared in the Omaha World-Herald, and possibly also the Omaha Bee, which is now defunct.

Patsy
Patsy on August 23, 2006 at 3:29 pm

Thanks for the information and I’ll take a closer look at where the impressive vertical marquee once was attached.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on October 25, 2008 at 4:52 pm

From the LA Times, 10/8/29:

THEATER ROBBED

OMAHA, Oct. 7 – Ten thousand dollars, the weekend receipts of the Paramount Theater, were taken from Glen McDaniel, assistant manager, at the point of a pistol early today. The robber compelled McDaniel to put the money in a sack and then fled in an automobile.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 5, 2009 at 8:56 pm

The Astro Theatre opened in June, 1962, according to the June 25 issue of Boxoffice Magazine. The theater had been mostly dark since 1952, with the exception of a few stage shows and the brief period when it had housed Omaha’s professional bowling league. In March, 1962, the theater was leased from Creighton University by Dubinsky Bros. Theatres of Lincoln, Nebraska, and the Dubinskys were responsible for the hasty remodeling. As the Astro the house seated 1465, reduced from the nearly 3000 it had previously held.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on March 18, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Building looks real nice but the plastic marquee looks out of place.

drivein2001
drivein2001 on February 15, 2011 at 7:29 pm

A photo I took of this Beautiful Theatre back in Nov of 2007.. View link ..
RAC Photography

rivest266
rivest266 on December 4, 2011 at 9:37 am

I have uploaded the grand opening ads for the Riviera from March 26th, 1927 and as Paramount on May 9th, 1929.

rivest266
rivest266 on December 4, 2011 at 10:26 pm

Also uploaded the June 15th, 1962 grand opening ad as Astro

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on July 19, 2012 at 10:57 am

Renovation plans described in this 1962 trade article: Boxoffice

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