Riant Theater

W. 1st Avenue and Fayette Street,
Conshohocken, PA 19428

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Additional Info

Architects: Paul J. Henon, Jr., William H. Hoffman

Firms: Hoffman-Henon Co.

Nearby Theaters

RIANT Theatre; Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.

Opened on November 11, 1921 with the movie “The Sign on the Door” starring Norma Tallmadge. It was razed in 1976. Offices are now located on the site of the theater.

(Source: Arcadia Publishing’s “Conshohocken”, page 64).

Contributed by tc

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

kencmcintyre on January 7, 2008 at 2:58 pm

Here is a February 2007 article that discusses the Riant:

HowardBHaas on February 16, 2009 at 8:03 am

If you type in exactly the words “Boxoffice August 21, 1937” and after issue appears, enter in search box “Philadelphia” after enough clicks you will find “Theatre Lighting Section” and on its second page, middle set of photos shows beautiful Art Moderne (remodel) of Riant.

HowardBHaas on March 3, 2009 at 10:48 am

Box Office 27 May 1939 Box Office reported that the Riant Theatre, formerly owned by Harry Schwalbe estate, was being taken over by Harry Fried.

Fried operated other theaters in the Philadelphia region.

LouRugani on February 10, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Former Riant box office worker has star qualities (Published Wednesday, February 28, 2007)

By: M. English

Back then, the borough had its own movie theater. The Riant was an Art Deco-inspired picture house on the southwest corner of West First Avenue and Fayette Street, and during most of the ‘30s Cahill manned its box office.

The 850-seat theater fell to the wrecking ball in the mid-1970s, and the site is now occupied by the Keystone Building and a tenant roster that includes Conshohocken’s municipal offices. But Cahill can still picture the restless queue of kids waiting to push through the Riant’s front door as she approached – keys in hand – from her home on nearby West Elm Street.

“Saturday afternoons they’d have a matinee, and the kids lined up for blocks,” remembers Cahill, whose father appeared on area vaudeville stages. “They couldn’t wait to get in. They all had their 11 cents to buy their tickets. They were so excited, and when they saw me coming, they’d cheer ‘Hurray … here she comes.’ To tell you the truth, I was just a young girl, and that was always so embarrassing.

“But I loved working there. The manager was a wonderful man. And it was beautiful inside. I remember even in the ladies room there was always a bouquet of flowers … and a hostess … Kay, I think her name was … to make sure everything was alright.

“I was the second youngest of nine – I had one sister and seven brothers – so, as a kid, I never had much money for going to the movies. But working there, I got to see the movies for free. So, working there was more like a pleasure than a job.”

Cahill was “disappointed” by the recent 2007 Academy Awards. “Most of the girls [at the Oscars] looked like they needed a good hair-combing.”

Back in the day, Cahill was a big Jean Harlow fan. The draw for the kids who awaited her arrival at the Riant? “Oh, they were there to see people like Hoot Gibson or Gene Autry,” she says. “There was lots of cowboy stuff back then. And they were always double, even triple features. Of course, you always had the kids who tried to sneak in without paying … by one of the other doors. But once they were in, they could spend all afternoon in the movies.”

According to borough history buff and businessman Jack Coll, the Riant opened Nov. 11, 1921, the same Saturday Conshohocken and West Conshohocken co-hosted a “massive” parade and celebration to dedicate the new concrete bridge that linked the neighboring Schuylkill-side boroughs. Coll’s research indicates the theater property was previously occupied by a “candy-ice cream store” and took “nearly two years to construct … (with workers using) hand-built wood scaffolding and horse and wagon to haul away debris.” “The name for the theatre was chosen in a public contest,” Coll says. “The name Riant was submitted by the late George Chell Sr., who resided [on]…West Fifth Avenue. Riant is a French word meaning ‘laughing, smiling, pleasant and cheerful.’ Mr. Chell received a year’s free pass to all performances for submitting the winning name.”

The theater’s first movie “The Sign on the Door” starring Norma Talmadge had a two-night run, followed by “The Old Nest” on Nov. 14 and 15. The latter featured Dwight T. Crittenden, Mary Alden and Nick Cogley, advertised in the local press (contemporary celebs, take note) as “the greatest star cast ever assembled.”

Adult admission was 25 cents plus a three-cent war tax (17 cents total for non-holiday matinees). Children’s tickets cost 15 cents plus a two-cent war tax (11 cents total for non-holiday matinees), and fancy lodge seats were 36 cents plus a four-cent war tax. Of course, the Riant showed nothing but silent films until 1928.

In those days, Coll notes, Conshohocken actually had its share of movie theaters, among them, Little’s Opera House, the Gem and the Forrest. “An Uptown movie theater that Nicholas Talone had proposed at the northwest corner of Ninth and Fayette street never developed,” he adds.

The proprietor of Coll’s Custom Framing as well as a current borough councilman, Coll says the Riant was part of the H. Fried Enterprises theater group during the 1930s and ‘40s. The chain also included the borough’s Forrest, Wayne’s Anthony Wayne, Ardmore’s Suburban Theatre and Bryn Mawr’s Seville – today’s restored Bryn Mawr Film Institute.

Coll figures the Riant stopped showing films in the early 1970s. The property was purchased by Montgomery County Redevelopment Authority in 1975 and demolished in 1976. “And contrary to what a lot of people think, ‘Mash’ wasn’t the last movie that played at the Riant,” he says. “‘Mash’ is on the marquee in some of the pictures you see today, so people make that assumption. What happened, though, somebody was making a movie in town and wanted something up on the marquee and ‘Mash’ was what they came up with.”

Reginancl on April 9, 2013 at 5:52 pm

My great great uncle harry schwalbe owned this theater at one time

Gene354 on December 22, 2017 at 1:45 pm

I went here often as a child in the 1950s. The only movie I can remember now seeing there was “Bambi”.

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