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Riviera Theatre begins its marquee restoration

NORTH TONAWANDA – The Riviera Theatre, an anchor on the revitalized Webster Street and Canal Corridor, on Monday launched a $275,000 project to restore the showplace’s marquee to the way it was in the theater’s heyday in 1947.

“It’s pretty much in a deteriorated state,” said Gary Rouleau, the theater’s director of development. “It’s in a state that if it doesn’t get restored now, it’s going to rot and fall off the front of the building. Some of the metal works have decayed on it.”

The sign is being removed from its moorings by contractors from Peyton Barlow Co. Then Wagner Sign Co. of Elyria, Ohio, will ship it to the company’s factory there, where it will be restored. The project is expected to be completed in February or March.

Rouleau said that in addition to metal and paint, some of the sign’s less-visible components, such as wiring, will be replaced; Frey Electric will handle that end of the project.

The theater has been raising funds for the project since 2010 and now has $275,000, thanks to sizable contributions from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation and the Grigg-Lewis Foundation.

The marquee will remain true to its history. Rouleau said metal work and neon lighting from the 1940s will be returned to their original glory.

Theater officials had the option of embracing the original marquee of 1926 or the current version from 1947. Rouleau said the more recent version was selected because it is more recognizable.

“There are some improvements that the state Historic Preservation Office has approved. (including) adding LED display panels where the lettering is to mimic what is currently on there – with the black letters and the white background controlled by a computer instead of having a volunteer climb up there in the middle of the winter in a snowstorm trying to replace the letters, which were a couple pounds apiece,” Rouleau said. “This will give us a little modern flair.”

During the restoration, he added, temporary signs will be used, and the theater will remain open.