Source: Michigans Historic Sites Online
The Grand Riviera Theater is a brown-brick, three-story structure designed in the Italian Renaissance style. The dominating feature is the eighty foot tall, octagonal corner pavillion with its large, arched, multi-paned windows and liberal application of cream colored terra cotta decoration. Adjoining the pavillion to the west is the three-story, store and office wing. To the north is the windowless auditorium section which has paneled brick walls spanned by the original metal fire escape.
The Grand Riviera is the most ornate of the neighborhood movie theaters built in the outlying sections of Detroit in the 1920s. The theater cost over one million dollars to complete, in 1925 with room for 3,000 making The Grand Riviera Theater the third largest theater in Detroit. The theater was one of John Ebersons "atmospheric" theaters a very popular concept of the time. The inside of the Grand Riviera resembled an Italian garden at night; artificial vines and flowers were placed around the edges as well as imitation buildings, the ceiling had small lights resembling stars with shadows used to simulate clouds.
The theater did very well as a movie house and Vaudeville stage until 1957 when it was converted into a "legitimate" theater. The Grand Riviera had lost its place as the premier theater in Detroit after the Fisher opened in 1961 and hosted various concerts until its closure in the mid 1970s.
From Cinema Treasures
The Riviera, or Grand Riviera, as it was first called when it was opened in 1925, was the only Detroit-area theater designed by John Eberson. It was built in an atmospheric/Italian Renaissance style, and resembled a palazzo, complete with a spectacular auditorium decorated to look like an outdoor courtyard. Its soaring grand lobby was equally stunning, complete with a grand marble staircase and not one but three great arched windows over front doors. A four-story vertical marquee spelled out the theater's name boldy over Grand River Avenue.
The theater opened with the film 'Desert Flower'. Within a couple years, it was wired for sound. In the early 30s, the 'Grand' was removed from its name-though it was no reflection on the beautiful theater itself-and was from then on known as the Riviera. In 1957, stage shows replaced movies at the Riviera, but returned in 1962. Seven years later, the Riviera closed. From 1969 until 1974, the Riviera was used for rock concerts, but from then on, was closed, awaiting its next incarnation, which never came. It quickly began to fall into disrepair, and by the 90s, was a sad sight.
Unfortunately, one of Detroit's most unique movie palaces was demolished in 1999. Since August 2001, the site has been occupied by the Deroit Grand River Social Security Office.