Riviera Theater restoration project under way

Once a popular cinema in Geneseo, the Riviera Theater lay dormant and abandoned by the community for nearly two decades. The Riviera is now under new ownership, however, and plans for the renovation and reopening of the theater are in the works. Don Livingston and Jim Sullivan, co-owners of Palace Properties of Geneseo, purchased the Riviera in May. Livingston and Sullivan own several other properties in the Geneseo area, including the building occupied by Special Tees and the Palace Theater office building on Main Street.

According to the Livingston County News, the Riviera was once an iconic landmark owned by the Aprile family. It was built in 1914 by Joseph Aprile and served the public of Geneseo as a theater for nearly 80 years until it was put out of service in 1990’5. During this time, the Riviera hosted community and college events such as bingo, magician shows, plays and university lectures. Since the 1990s, it has remained mostly vacant and is used generally for office purposes. Livingston and Sullivan, however, have plans to renovate the historic building and bring it back to life.

Livingston said he is enthusiastically heading into the renovation process.

“We felt it was a shame the building was dying because it was, and we thought it would be an interesting project to undertake,” Livingston said.

According to Livingston, the project is already underway.

“We renovated the apartments first upstairs, they’re already done,” Livingston said. “Then we are going to move on to the front facade and then the theater at the end.

“We want to maintain the look and the quality of the building. It’s a vintage building and it’s going to be modern, but we want it to look like it did,” Livingston said. The theater will keep up with the modern aspects of the local business while keeping an air of the historic look and feel that made the theater so popular. Livingston said he expects to see the theater finished within a year and a half.

This is not the first restoration project that the partners have undertaken. According to the Livingston County News, Livingston and Sullivan completed restoration of the Palace marquee in November 2012. Flexlume Sign Company, which installed the original marquee lighting for both the Palace and Riviera Theaters, is still in business and will be brought in to work on the Riviera marquee.

New life will also bring new events into the old theater. The theater will show movies of course, but Livingston said he hopes to have other art events take place there as well. Livingston said the facility might host live shows, musical performances and dinner theater and serve as a general gathering place for the public.

Livingston said that he and his partners are renovating the Riviera for the enjoyment of the public.

“We want this to be a place where the community can get together and enjoy themselves,” Livingston said. He said they hope to bring back the once-great theater to recognizable fame in the area.υ