Rivoli Theatre (Williams Center for the Arts) Rutherford, NJ

This was originally posted on After the Final Curtain’s Patreon in January 2022. For expanded early posts, as well as video walkthroughs and other exclusive content, you can become a patron at: https://www.patreon.com/afterthefinalcurtain

The auditorium shortly after it opened, and in 2016.

The Rivoli Theatre opened on April 22, 1922, in Rutherford, New Jersey. It was designed by architect Abram Presikel and featured a marble facade, an ornate interior, and a centerpiece chandelier made of crystals from Czechoslovakia. The 2,200 seat theater opened as a combination vaudeville and silent film house. During this time, acts such as Abbott and Costello and the Glenn Miller Orchestra performed at the Rivoli.

In 1936, architect John Eberson, known for designing many atmospheric theaters across the world, remodeled the interior. On January 9, 1977, a fire destroyed the lobby and front of the building. Luckily, most of the auditorium was undamaged. Repairs began right away, and in 1982 the theater reopened as a performing arts center called the George W. Newman Theatre. However, movies were still shown in the building. As part of the reconstruction, a two-screen cinema was constructed on the site of the Rivoli’s lobby. The entire building, including the former Rivoli and the two-screen cinema, was named the William Carlos Williams Center for the Performing Arts, after the poet, doctor, and Rutherford native.

The theater was gifted to Bergen County in 1987, and they made an agreement with the nonprofit group that ran the theater to continue on. Over the years, the theater hosted music shows, films, art shows, and High School Graduations. In October 2012, the Newman theater closed due to damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. A study determined that the ceiling plasterwork might not be stable if exposed to the sound of a live music performance. In August 2021, Bergen County transferred the ownership of the building to the borough of Rutherford, who then sold it to local developer Chuck Olivo for $1. Olivo intends to save the theater, as well as build a residential building on the site.

View of the auditorium from the back rows.
A close up of some of the surviving plasterwork details in the auditorium.
The theater’s proscenium arch.
Behind the giant chandelier you can see the divide where the original auditorium ends and the newer portion begins.
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One thought on “Rivoli Theatre (Williams Center for the Arts) Rutherford, NJ

  1. Great fotos and wonderful update as to our history !!!!
    It would be nice to see fotos of the stage areas and the stage equipment they used to create all the magical effects we remember..
    Fabulous work!!!!

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