Inside the Grand Riviera Theatre, Detroit – 1925
For 32 years, the Grand Riviera Theatre presented motion pictures to the public in grand style. This palace, built in an Italian Renaissance style, served the Detroit public from 1925 thru 1952. Planned and constructed by the Grand Riviera Theatre Company, upon its opening on August 25, 1925, the dedication was as follows: “To the people of Detroit and to their children and to their children’s children; that through the years it may lighten the cares of life’s vicissitudes with wholesome laughter; that they may drink the innocent inspirations of music; that they may wrap themselves in the soft cloak of the arts and revel in decent recreation against the humdrum routine of mundane existence … to them and for this does the Grand Riviera Theatre Management dedicate this beautiful temple of play.”
...and it was beautiful.
Sitting on the corner of Grand River Avenue and Riviera Street, the auditorium was splashed with surroundings that looked like a Mediterranean courtyard garden. Seating capacity was 2,773. The entrance was an octagonal, four-story tower.
The lobby was lavishly furnished with a grand marble staircase and arched windows. The ambiance of the whole theater, inside and out, overpowered even the most lavish Hollywood film that could hope to grace its screen.
For a little over five years, The Grand Riviera showed the top films of the day, mixed with the usual vaudeville acts that toured the country in the 1920s. Vocalists, jugglers, actors, skits, comedians, dancers, musicians, magicians.....all graced the stage between film showings. Once sound films made their debut, the vaudeville acts were eventually dropped, and it became just a movie house by the 1930s. To mark this change, the theater dropped “Grand” from its name and was now known as the Riviera Theatre.
Finally, after 32 years, the theater was sold in 1952. By 1957, movies were no longer shown, now utilizing the venue for live acts, concerts, and stage shows. However, in 1962 one of Detroit's other theaters was refurbished and began featuring live performers. Seeing this, owners of the Riviera switched back to motion pictures. In 1969, live concerts was now the main course at the Riviera, which lasted until 1974. During this time, the neighborhood went into decline. Businesses left, customers left, and the theater had no choice but to close permanently.
1980: designated a Michigan State Historic Site
1982: listed on the National Register of Historic Places
1990s: broken-down, in major disrepair, and shabby
Currently sitting at the corner of Grand River and Riviera is a parking lot and social security office where this grand old theater once stood, majestic against the skyline. If you so desire to ever pay a visit to where this extraordinary theater once was, the address is listed as 9222 Grand River Avenue.
Take a look at the photo gallery below and see how gloriously grand it really was!
The Defunct Grand Riviera Theatre, Detroit, 1925-1952
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