Riviera Theater

601 Crescent Avenue,
Catalina Island, CA 90704

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: United Theaters of California, Western Amusement Company Inc.

Functions: Nightclub, Restaurant

Styles: Spanish Colonial

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Riviera Theater

Located in Avalon on Catalina Island, off the coast of California. The Riviera Theater was opened by 1926 when it was operated by the United Theaters of California chain. After its closure in 1961 it was converted into a bowling alley.

In recent years it has become a restaurant/nightclub known as the Riviera Room.

Contributed by KenRoe

Recent comments (view all 7 comments)

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on January 8, 2005 at 6:34 pm

The map link doesn’t work for the address above, which was given in the Film Daily Yearbook, 1950 and 1952.

The building does exist though at the corner of Crescent Avenue and Clarissa Ave. It is one of the first buildings you see when entering the town on foot from the ferry landing.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 9, 2005 at 6:17 am

I have found that there is a reference to a Strand Theater in Avalon, being re-opened after improvements, in the L.A. Times issue of January 15th, 1922. No address is given.

There is also an article in Southwest Builder and Contractor of December 12th, 1924, saying that architects (Walter I.) Webber, (William F.) Staunton and (Sumner Maurice) Spaulding had prepared plans for a 600 seat theater to be erected in Avalon. Neither name nor location is given. However, a librarians note on this card says that this is believed to be the building which, after the opening of the Casino and its theater, was converted into the Post Office.

The Casino, opened in 1930, was itself designed by Webber and Spaulding. I don’t know if they were responsible for the interior of the movie theatre which was (and is, though I believe it is currently closed) on the ground floor of that massive landmark, but they probably were. Their firm did quite a bit of work at Catalina in those days.

My mother, though she lived in Avalon for a couple of years in the 1930s, has no memory of the Riviera Theater, or any theater on the island, other than the Casino. (It seems as though a second theater would be hard not to notice in such a small town, but maybe it was closed for a while in those years.)

In any case, I’m wondering if the Riviera might be the Strand, renamed. It might be possible to find an old postcard view of Avalon showing the theatre. There are usually quite a few Catalina cards on display in the postcard auction section of e-Bay. Avalon was, for decades, one of the most photographed places in California, and hundreds of different postcard views of it were published, and they sold in vast numbers.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on January 9, 2005 at 1:27 pm

This ‘could’ have been known initially as the Strand Theater but there is no reference to a theater of that name in the book I have on the history of the Casino Building.

The Riviera Theater is mentioned several times;
‘that it was only open during the summer season, once the Avalon Theater opened in 1929. Tom White, a Hollywood promotor who held the lease on Avalon’s Riviera Theater, leased the new Avalon Theater in 1929 and also signed on as general manager of the Casino operation. His lifestyle proved to flamboyant, and his association with the Casino ended in December 1929. Art LaShelle, who had managed the Riviera and Avalon Theater’s for Tom White, stayed on to manage both theatres and facilities until 1939.

Over the years Avalon had enjoyed the offerings of a number of summer resident theatrical groups on the stage of the Riviera or the Bandbox Theater in El Encanto.

Western Amusement Company, which operated a number of theaters on the mainland, obtained a lease on both the Avalon and Riviera Theater’s in 1949. The company closed the Avalon Theater during the winter but kept the Riviera Theater open all year until it was converted into a bowling alley in 1961.

The Avalon Theater is still open and operating and is on Cinema Treasures /theaters/22/

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 9, 2005 at 2:54 pm

Ah, the location link for this theater says “Avalon, Catalina Island” and that for the Avalon simply says “Catalina Island,” so they don’t both share an “Avalon, California” listing page.

I didn’t know that there was a theater in El Encanto, either. Was it only used for stage productions?

I have a cousin who spent several years of her childhood in Avalon. Next time I’m in touch with her, I’ll ask her about the Riviera. I doubt that she’d know whether or not it was originally the Strand, though, as she wasn’t born until 1933 or 1934. She might have been too young to have known anything about the theater which presumably became the Post Office, either, but I’ll ask her about that, too. She’d probably at least remember where the Post Office was in those days.

JimSpohn on February 2, 2005 at 6:15 pm

The projectors from the Riviera Theatre were stored under the orchestria pit of the Avalon Theatre in the Casino Building. They were Simplex E-7s. One of the projectors was ruined by a saltwater flood. I own the surviving projector and it is in use at my theatre in Bakersfield California. To see the projector click here www.granada-theatre.com that projector is the second one shown (with the smaller lamphouse). I obtained the projector in 1980….Jim Spohn (661)326-1308

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 30, 2008 at 7:22 am

A brief item from the July 9, 1938, issue of Boxoffice Magazine mentions three theaters operating in Avalon at the time: “Visitors… Art LaShell, manager of the Avalon, Riviera, and Samoa in Catalina, accompanied by Ernie Gans, who will produce a stage show at the Samoa shortly.”

There was nothing about whether the Samoa also ran movies, but as it was managed by the same guy who managed the Avalon and Riviera, it seems likely that it did. Avalon wasn’t a very large town, but it had a huge tourist population and probably could have supported three movie houses during the season. I wonder if the Samoa could have been the 1924-25 project by Webber, Staunton & Spaulding which was later converted into the post office?

Avalon’s post office is currently located on Metropole Avenue, in a newer building, but there’s a building at 409 Crescent Avenue that looks as though it could have been a theater, having what seems to be a former stage tower. The building currently has a courtyard, but the L.A. County Assessor’s office gives it an original construction date of 1926, and an effective construction date of 1941, so the courtyard might date from the rebuilding at that latter date.

Google Maps has no street views of Avalon, but a bird’s-eye view of the building can be seen at Live Search. Search on 409 Crescent Av., Avalon Ca.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 30, 2008 at 7:26 am

Oh, you can also use the Live Search link in my comment immediately above to fetch a bird’s-eye view of the Riviera itself, or just drag the view back and forth between the two buildings (or all over town.)

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