St. Luke the Evangelist Parish hosted a “Valentine Gala” event on Saturday Feb. 14 in order to celebrate the long awaited reopening of the Riviera Theater while raising money to benefit the church. The resulting ticket sales were astounding––selling 170 tickets at $50 each for a total of $8,500. Attendees were both members of the parish and the Geneseo community, and all were eager to get back into the recently reborn theater. “It is Valentine’s Day, you are in the Riviera, and no, you are not dreaming,” emcee and Geneseo adjunct instructor of Latin and Faculty Fellows for International Programs Wes Kennison said. “In the minds of the people who have lived here their whole lives, the Riviera is a place of legend.”
The evening began with cocktails and dinner stations catered by the Village Tavern. “The food was great,” Kennison said. “The catering company did a great job.” As everyone ate, stories about the old Riviera seemed to be one of the main topics of conversation.
“My mother-in-law’s job when she was 10 years old used to be to carry the advertisements across the stage at the intermission of the films,” Kennison said. Many people in attendance had similar stories connected to the venue’s past.
After dinner came remarks from Riviera owner Don Livingston. Based off of a single photograph, Livingston and his team sought to recreate the Riviera with as much historical accuracy as possible. He spoke of how his team was able to refurbish many of the original fixtures, from seats to the movie screen. This effort was reflected in the “old-time” movie theater ambiance of the night––from the smell of house-made popcorn to the green walls trimmed in gold.
After Livingston spoke, there was a screening of the 1957 film An Affair to Remember starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. In an age where we can get any song or movie we want in seconds, we may have found ourselves at a point where we are starving for a connection to our entertainment.
“The community craves live entertainment,” Kennison said. “It’s always better when the ambiance is the laughter of your friends.”
The night then came to a close with dessert, marking the beginning of a new era of entertainment for the Geneseo community.
With the abundance of food options as well as its central location, the theater will hopefully be able to again promote this community atmosphere. Events such as film screenings are just the beginning of what is in store for the Riviera. Efforts from the student population of Geneseo to promote local musical talent have also been expressed.
“The sky is the limit in terms of the imagination of the community,” Kennison said.