Riviera Theater

225 King Street,
Charleston, SC 29403

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The Riviera Theater (Official)

Additional Info

Architects: Charles Collins Benton

Functions: Conference Center

Styles: Art Deco

Phone Numbers: Box Office: 800.611.5545

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News About This Theater

Riviera Theater

Listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, the Riviera Theater is a sublime example of the romantic Art Deco style. It opened on January 15, 1939 with Edmund Lowe in “Secrets of a Nurse”. Seating was provided for 789 in the orchestra level, 125 in the balcony, and 279 in the gallery (rear balcony for African Americans, who had their own separate entrance on Market Street).

This stunning theatre was the home of first run pictures, on its fifty foot screen, until it closed on September 5, 1977. The theater was leased to a church group in 1979 and, by the mid-1980’s, threatened with demolition.

The Friends of the Riviera protected the theater and it was eventually sold to the Charleston Place Hotel (which is located next door).

The hotel restored the entire theater, but removed the seats in order to create a conference center and ballroom.

Contributed by Ross Melnick

Recent comments (view all 24 comments)

Patsy on July 25, 2006 at 4:42 am

How did a closeup of that face get to be photographed…from what level or location?

Patsy on March 2, 2007 at 6:04 am

Lost Memory: Couldn’t view the photo when clicking on the word HERE.

Patsy on June 24, 2007 at 12:36 pm

What an art deco facade!

meggyb on November 25, 2007 at 8:48 am

I am looking for the documentation of the Riviera Theatre being on the National Register. I do not think that it is individually listed, perhaps it is in the Charleston Historic District. Does anyone have any more information of this?

Also, is anyone familiar with a previous member of the “Friends of the Riviera”?

mda38 on February 15, 2009 at 1:19 pm

If you look at the “august 2008” pic, you’ll see a plaque on the left-hand side of the building. It’s about a theater that was on the site earlier, a vaudeville house I believe was called the Academy of Music.

Also, you’ll see a side entrance. That’s where the blacks would enter during the Jim Crow era. I happened to walk by that theater in the early 80s when someone had left the door unlocked. I walked around the empty theater. The Jim Crow box office was still there, along with advertising from the 1950s. The smoking gallery had an intricate pattern rug that appeared to be from the 1930s. I locked up when I left.

The smoking gallery had been closed for years. I used to go there quite often as a child. It was part of a chain called Pastime Amusement Company, which also owned the larger Gloria and the smaller and older Garden. They also had a tiny theater called the Arcade. At one point a church operated out of there, I believe. It was also a rep house in the mid-80s.

1234 on July 3, 2009 at 3:17 pm

Charles Benton the architect of the Riviera, may have also designed the Strand theater in MArietta GA which opened in 1935, in looking at photographs of both theaters there a numerous details that are basically the same in both theaters, The Strand looks to be an earlier and less costly version of the Riviera.
The Strand has been reopened but it was not a restoration back to the original.

Patsy on January 3, 2011 at 1:57 pm

The “sister” theater to this one is the Rogers Theatre in Shelby NC. Owner, Gary Kulas is restoring it. www.rogerstheatershelby.com

Mark on April 14, 2023 at 9:50 pm

Looks very similar to the Earl Smith Strand Theatre also Art-Deco in Marietta GA.

Patsy on April 15, 2023 at 6:32 am

Love the art deco built theatres. My hometown theatre was art deco. To view my exhibit held last summer to honor that theatre go to Facebook. Grand Theatre Westfield NY

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