(Riviera) Paramount Theater

96 East Fourth Street
Waterloo, IA 50703

Builder: Barton Organs, 1927.
Manuals: 3
Ranks: 10
Compass: 61/32
Action: Electro-pneumatic

Notes: Located on E. 4th Street close to Water Street. The Riviera Theatre was built for A.H. Blank and opened December 29, 1927.

The Riviera ‘Grand Organ' was played by guest organist Ralph Jones. With 2,000 seats, the Riviera Theatre was the largest movie theatre to operate in Waterloo. The theatre originally featured vaudeville and silent movies, and when sound came along, it was soon only showing movies.

When visitors entered the theatre’s front doors, they passed through a set of columns, into a circular lobby with lighted alcoves that stood just below a domed ceiling. Straight ahead was the grand staircase to the 2nd-floor foyer, which led in turn to the balcony seating area.

Like many Atmospheric style theatres, the auditorium was designed to make you feel that you were outdoors. Artificial trees stood on both sides of the balcony. An effects machine projected stars on the theatre’s ceiling, and once each night, the moon rose and set.

On May 17, 1929 it was renamed Paramount Theatre. For several years, the theatre presented a series of live stage presentations through an arrangement with the Broadway Theatre League of Waterloo and periodic concerts thru the Waterloo Teachers Association. On these occasions, movies were shut down for the day, the screen flew, the speakers rolled away, and a magical transformation took place.

In 1972, a fire destroyed the stage area. The asbestos fire curtain came down, saving the rest of the theatre, but then it was ultimately demolished.

The area once occupied by the Paramount Theatre is now a riverfront park.

Information from Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ, Vol. I by David L. Junchen. Pasadena: Showcase Publications, 1985.

Organ Historical Society as of 2018.