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Milwaukee Film Festival comes to Cedarburg's Rivoli theater

Movie lovers will have a new theater to enjoy during this year's Milwaukee Film Festival.

Cedarburg's Rivoli Theater is joining the lineup, playing films in the program throughout the 15-day festival, running Oct. 17-31.

The vintage movie house has deep roots in the community and looks the part. First-time visitors will be charmed by its art-deco facade.

Cedarburg's Rivoli Theater. Photo: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee.

Converted from a dry goods store to a movie theater in 1936, the one-screen auditorium offered 400 seats and an upscale experience. According to original advertising, unearthed by OnMilwaukee's Bobby Tanzilo, those seats were "full-upholstered velour which are extremely modern."

The opulence continued with "heavy carpeting of a unique design … light fixtures … ultra-modern in design, giving the patrons a colorful hue of lighting effects."

Photo: OnMilwaukee.

After years about 20 years of independent operation, the Rivioli was leased to Marcus Theaters, which ran it for several decades, until 2006. But when the lease eventually lapsed, its future was uncertain.

This week on Urban Spelunking, we talk about how the Cedarburg community came together -- on a mostly volunteer basis -- to save the vintage theater.

Since, the Rivioli has been completely remodeled, complete with new projection and sound systems, improved lighting and new seating. (Hey, the velour couldn't last forever.) And it stays true to its small town heritage; it doesn't show rated R movies and offers regular, family-friendly showtimes.

During the festival season, however, the lineup will surely shake up the usual format. Within reason.

Photo: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee

Check out the full lineup here and read Bobby's complete story at OnMilwaukee. And while you're listening to podcasts, check out Cinebuds, 88Nine and Milwaukee Film's weekly podcast.

Director of Digital Content | Radio Milwaukee