Historic Riviera theater reopens with big band performances

The Geneseo Riviera Theater hosted a night of fun for the whole community on Saturday Feb. 21. The historic venue welcomed students and locals of all ages to come enjoy the cozy space and listen to the big band music that Dansville-based group 78 RPM had to offer.

To start the event, Riviera owner and developer Don Livingston welcomed the audience to the newly revamped Center Street location and thanked The Village Café for catering.

“It’s a vintage building and we decided a long time ago that it was only appropriate to start with a vintage band,” Livingston said. He then handed the mic over to 78 RPM, who set the mood with a variety of fun, timeless tunes. The group’s 16 members came together to play classics such as Nat King Cole’s “L-O-V-E” and George Gershwin’s “They Can’t Take That Away from Me.”

The band added to the pleasant atmosphere as listeners tapped along to the music or hit the dance floor in front of the stage. Whether it was a calming sway or a fast-paced swing step, attendees couldn’t resist showing off their moves. People of all ages attended and there were even two birthdays in the audience—one person turning 81 and the other 18—perhaps exemplifying the theater’s rich history as well as its bright future.

Livingston expressed his hopes that his theater will be used for a wide variety of performances and entertainment down the line. He added that he is looking forward to more movies, live productions and music in the near future. Since its opening in 1914, the space has also been used for blood drives and food banks, demonstrating how valuable the Riviera has been to the area. “It was more than just a movie house. It was a community center,” Livingston said. “Through its history, it was a meeting place for the town.”

The town undoubtedly appreciated Livingston’s efforts to restore the cherished theater, as 78 RPM’s big band and swing selections had children and adults alike bouncing to the rhythm.

The event ultimately proved that the historic venue could still draw in community members of all ages in its second stage of life.