Billed as the Showplace of the Tonawandas, the Riviera Theatre was built during the year 1926, by the Yellen Family. The architects Leon H. Lempart and Son drew the plans, which were patterned after the Italian Renaissance. The interior artwork was painted at the Rochester Studio of Willard M. Lusk, by Ferdinand Kebely.
The Wurlitzer Organ to be installed in the new Theatre, Opus 1524 was shipped from the Wurlitzer Factory on November 19, 1926. Listed as a Model 235 Special, the organ differed from a standard 3 manual 11 rank Model 235, by substituting an Oboe Horn rank of pipes from the standard Salicional pipes usually found on this model. Other differences included the omission of the standard remote Piano, and a 5 H.P. blower instead of the 7-1/2 H.P. The console was painted and decorated to harmonize with the Theatre’s interior, by Wurlitzer’s Band Organ Artist.
Opening night, Thursday, December 30, 1926 of the New RIVERA (as it was spelled then) was a ‘gala event’ in the Tonawandas. Advance reservations for opening night cost $1.00. Present on this special evening, were the Mayors of both Tonawandas. From the stage, Mayor James P. Mackenzie of North Tonawanda, praised the President of the Ownership Corporation of the Theatre, Henry Henshel, and the Theatre’s Manager, James J. Kelly. Messages of Congratulation of the Grand Opening were received from Governor Alfred E. Smith, and famous movie producer Cecil B. Demille.
Featured on the screen, were the movies