Riviera debuts restored wurlitzer

posted by savemypass on April 1, 2008 at 8:00 am

NORTH TONAWANDA, NY — One of the most unique and extraordinary theatre organs in the world, the Riviera Theatre Mighty Wurlitzer, a style 235 built in 1926, has just been restored after four weeks of work.

Originally installed in 1926 at the debut of the Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda, New York by the world-famous Wurlizer Organ company which headquarted only blocks away from the theatre, this specific Wurlitzer — equipped with (literally) all the bells and whistles that made it perfect to accompany silent motion pictures — is believed to be the quintessential, archtetypical demonstration organ used by the manufacturer to woo their buyers. The Wurlitzer Company in Tonawanda built about 2,300 organs. Of these, fewer than 30 are complete in their original locations: The Riviera’s Wurlitzer is one of that select group.

The Riviera Theatre was closed the entire month of January, 2008 as each individual organ pipe was removed from the walls and laid out onto the stage-Every piece of the instrument was extensively cleaned and repaired before being returned to the organ chambers high above the auditorium. Supervised by acclaimed Theatre Organist Clark Wilson, over 1050 man hours went into regulating the air passages (wind lines) to the pipes, tuning and re-voicing the ranks to create an orchestral sound perfect for concerts and accompanying silent films. Redundant pipes were removed and the “bells and whistles” (including air driven pianos, an antique spinnet, drums, xylophones, whistles and more) formerly in the orchestra pit were located to movable platforms on the state.

Mr. Wilson and his colleagues restored the organ to become “as fine of a well balanced, smooth and articulate mid-sized Wurlitzer as exists anywhere" in the world according to Russ Shaner, director of the Rochester Theatre Organ Society. Pleased with the work, Mr. Shaner predicted the Riviera will make the "list of top venues to play in the US."

Wilson gave a marvelous performance on Wednesday March 5th that included a comedy silent film short. He showed off several months of his detailed restoration work on the Wurlitzer.

Clark Wilson will return to the Riviera Theatre during the Harold Lloyd Comedy Film Festival on April 18th -20th 2008. On Sunday April 20th he will accompany the Lloyd classics “The Kid Brother” at 2pm and “Safety Last” at 7pm Suzanne Lloyd, Harold Lloyd’s granddaughter will appear in person at the 7pm performance.

Mr Wilson is available for interviews by phone.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $8 for students and seniors, and $5 for children 12 years old and under. There is a Reception/Dinner on Sunday, April 20 after the 7pm show, $25.00 additional. Discounts for festival passes and group sales. Purchase by phone from the Riviera Box Office: 716-692-2413 or online at www.rivieratheatre.org

The Harold Lloyd Comedy Film Festival is co-presented by The Historic Riviera Theatre, The Buffalo Film Festival (Buffalo International Film Festival, Inc.), The Buffalo Film Society, The New York State Movie Theatre Corridor, WKBW Channel 7, the George Eastman House, Way Out Cinema,

Buffalo International Film Festival, Inc. is a 501c3 not-for-profit charity. It depends upon the support of the community through tax deductible donations.

Further Information: Riviera Theatre: David Bondrow, Creative Director: (716) 692-2413
The Buffalo Film Festival: 212-214-0513,

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Comments (7)

ERD on April 1, 2008 at 9:24 am

I wish the Palace Theatre of Albany, NY would be interested
in having an organ restored to the auditorium.

ticktock11 on April 1, 2008 at 1:24 pm

“Redundant pipes were removed.”

I’ve never known an organ—even a theater organ—with “redundant” pipes. Will you fill me in on that?

Thank you.

Luis Vazquez
Luis Vazquez on April 1, 2008 at 6:59 pm

Is the Wurlitzer company out of business?

PGlenat on April 1, 2008 at 7:14 pm

I know that the Riviera’s organ has been enlarged and enhanced over the years with ranks of pipes and parts obtained from other area theater organs. I suppose that some of the modifications, while well intentioned, were misguided and ill conceived. Therefore some things had to be undone or redone. This may be the reference to redundant pipes. I believe that Clark Wilson points this out in recent comments he made on the Riviera’s page.

PGlenat on April 1, 2008 at 8:10 pm

LuisV: According to one source Wurlitzer built its last theater organ in 1940. Wurlitzer’s other manufacturing divisions (band organs, jukeboxes, pianos and other musical instruments) were gradually sold off over the years.
The Wurlitzer factory building still stands on Niagara Falls Blvd in North Tonawanda, not far from the Riviera Theater. Today the building is occupied by various businesses.

Luis Vazquez
Luis Vazquez on April 2, 2008 at 8:00 am

It would make sense that a company like Wurlitzer which provided so many palaces with its organs would not survive the fall of the palaces themselves.

JohnMLauter on April 3, 2008 at 12:31 pm

Wurlitzer began in 1856, started making pipe organs in about 1912, left that business in 1942 and continued making Jukeboxes,pianos,electronic organs, home appliances, radios, phonographs, toasters and other products. They went out of business in the early 1980s after the home electronic organ market died. Other companies own and sue the name to market ukeboxes and pianos.
The company survived another 50 years after the theatre pipe organ went out of large-scale production here in the US.

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