Tonawanda News — Local politicians emphasized the importance of Riviera Theatre as an anchor in North Tonawanda on Friday morning at a dedication ceremony for the performing arts center’s newly renovated marquee.
“To have this theater being restored as part of the revitalization of Webster Street and the whole downtown corridor is amazing,” Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, who attended Friday’s dedication, said. “You have achieved what many people do not.”
The modernized marquee was installed last week after years of fundraising for the project and months of work. The iconic marquee, which was first constructed in 1947, was removed from the theater in October and was sent to the Wagner Electric Sign Company in Ohio for the restoration process.
“The work was completed indoors — not with workers up on ladders — and with the winter we had, I think we have a much better product because of it,” Riviera Theatre Director of Operations Jim Pritchard said.
An architect worked with the Riv to match the marquee’s original paint colors, as well as its red and green neon lights. The new LED display panel replaces the old-fashioned method of placing lettering by hand for upcoming shows, but the style of the block letters is identical. Electrical updates were also completed inside the theater as part of the $285,000 project.
Although the marquee has been modernized, about 90 percent of the structure’s features remain unchanged, in line with standards set by the New York State Historic Preservation Office.
The renovation of the marquee, which had fallen into disrepair after more than 60 years of use, was made possible through state grant money and donations from the community.
“The governor is a huge investor in upstate New York,” Duffy, a Democrat, said Friday, citing a $103,000 grant from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation that aided the Riv in the restoration. “There has been an awful lot of money spent, and it would not have been possible without the local leadership here.”