Charleston’s Most Charming Theater

The Riviera Theater has remained a landmark building on lower King Street for years, welcoming visitors to utilize its renovated interior daily and lighting up the corner of King Street and Meeting Street nightly. Just like every building in the historic Holy City, the iconic Art Deco-style structure tells a unique story of its own. Before it housed business conventions, weddings and events, the venue served multiple purposes since its opening in January of 1939; from its beginning as one of Charleston’s first movie theaters to housing a Baptist Fellowship and a variety of business ventures in between.

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At the time of its opening, the Riviera Theater was one of the most highly regarded auditoriums, complete with modern architecture and the latest projection equipment. Although it saw its fair share of success as one of only two theaters in downtown Charleston, the theater closed its doors in 1977 due to the rising popularity of television and the increasing construction of movie theatres in nearby suburbs.

Following its close as a theater, the building was then transformed into a church, housing a Community Baptist Fellowship for a short two years until the lease expired. The Riviera stood vacant again until 1983, when it opened briefly as a motion picture house featuring foreign and classic films. It closed again the following November and various plans were drafted for the space for several years.

When a group of developers were given preliminary approval by Charleston’s Board of Architectural Review to renovate the historic theater into a retail space, local neighbors were not particularly in agreement with the plans. Interest groups were formed and petitions were drafted to preserve the building’s architecture and history, which ultimately led to the purchasing of the theater by Charleston Place in 1993.

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After a hefty four million dollar renovation by Charleston Place, the historic theater opened its doors on May 15th, 1997 as a conference center and event space. During the renovation, more than 90 percent of the original interior was preserved and other aspects were renovated to closely resemble the Art Deco design constructed by skilled architect Charles C. Benton in 1939. The interior decor also stays true to the Art Deco-style, from the intricate hand-painted crown molding to the original flexwood walls and the beautiful murals that adorn them. The marquee on the building’s exterior was also fully restored in the renovation process, containing 16,000 lights.

Today, the theater significantly resembles the charming, single-screen auditorium that King Street once knew, honoring the history of the building and the memories that were created there while continuing to serve the Charleston community. For more information regarding the the remarkable venue and its amenities, visit our website.

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Dancing Like A Local

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From shagging on the beach to doing the Charleston by the Battery, the Lowcountry is the perfect setting for putting some swing in your step! It’s time to dust off your dancing shoes and learn about some of the Holy City’s most popular dances to avoid stepping on any feet at your next Southern soirée.

The Carolina Shag: A Southern Staple

Designated as South Carolina’s official State Dance in 1984, the shag is a six-count step dance typically done with a partner to the tune of beach music. The term was coined by cities along the South Carolina shore in the 1940’s and its dance moves descended from a dance called “Little Apple” which originated in Columbia, South Carolina. Shag dancing is one of the most casual dances, one that you can swing to on the beach without spilling your drink. When dressing for the occasion, keep it casual and stick to flip flops, button downs, khaki’s and skirts.

Concierge tip: Want to put your shagging skills to the test? Beginning in April, Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission hosts “Shaggin’ on the Cooper” at the Mount Pleasant Pier every Friday evening (pictured above).

The Charleston: A Piece of History

The Charleston, as presumed, coined its name right here in the Holy City. The fast-paced swing dance rose to fame after appearing in the Broadway musical “Runnin’ Wild” in 1923 and triumphed the Roaring Twenties, becoming one of the most popular dances at the time. The dance is accompanied by ragtime jazz music and is in quick four by four step counts with syncopated rhythms, incorporating quick feet movements and swaying arms. The Charleston can be done alone, with a partner or with a larger group, and the common attire is a suit for men and flapper-style dresses for women. Although the Charleston is not as common today, it remains a cultural trademark of the Jazz age in the Lowcountry and the flappers who so often danced the flamboyant movements to jazzy beats.

Practice your moves using these step-by-step videos for learning The Shag and The Charleston.

 

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Hollywood in the Holy City

Perhaps it is the dreamy backdrop of a Lowcountry landscape or the history that prevails in the architecture of its remarkable buildings. Whatever it may be, there is simply something about Charleston that seems to capture the attention of Hollywood directors and viewers across America. From popular love stories to iconic war movies and even new television series, Charleston has become a Hollywood hot spot for storytelling on the big screen. The next time you’re in Charleston, see if you recognize any of the backdrops from these famous films.

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1. The Notebook (2004):

The Notebook, a 1940’s romantic drama based on the best-selling novel by Nicholas Sparks, gained much appraisal after its release ten years ago and is still considered a classic and timeless film. Most of us are familiar with the complicated love story of Allie and Noah, but did you know that nearly the entire movie was filmed in South Carolina? Many parts of downtown Charleston and surrounding areas can be seen in The Notebook, with some of its most memorable scenes taking place right on King Street.

Notable Filming Locations: The American Theatre, Upper King Street, Seabrook Island, The College of Charleston Campus, Boone Hall Plantation (shown above and below), the Calhoun Mansion, Old Village and Cypress Gardens.

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2. Dear John (2010):

The charming streets of Charleston and the beachy, laid-back vibe of Sullivan’s Island creates the perfect scenery for Dear John, another popular romance movie based off of a novel by Nicholas Sparks. Though parts of the movie were filmed on nearby Edisto Island, SC and Oak Island, NC, a majority of the scenes were shot right here in Charleston.

Notable Filming Locations: Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island, Bowen’s Island Restaurant, The College of Charleston Campus and Cassina Point Plantation.

3. The Patriot (2000):

While Charleston does serve as quite the romantic setting, movies such as The Patriot showcase the Holy City in a much different light, utilizing the historic backdrop to bring historic war battles to life. Many of the characters in this American Revolutionary War film were based on real heroes of the war, including Andrew Pickens, Francis Marion, Daniel Morgan and Thomas Sumter.

Notable Filming Locations: The College of Charleston Campus, Cypress Gardens and Middleton Place (shown below).

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4. Cold Mountain (2003):

Cold Mountain, another popular war film, is based on the bestselling novel by Charles Frazier and follows a wounded soldier’s treacherous journey home. The star-studded cast includes big names such as Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellweger, Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Philip Seymour Hoffman and uses Charleston as a “town hall” setting.

Notable filming locations: Downtown Charleston, The College of Charleston Campus (shown below).

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5. Army Wives (TV Series, 2007-2013)

This popular Lifetime series was initially based off of a novel by Tanya Blank titled “Army Wives: the Unwritten Code of Military Marriage.” The television series acquired such a loyal following that it amounted to seven seasons, with the series ending last September.

Notable filming locations: Charleston Air Force Base in North Charleston, River Front Park in North Charleston and the Charleston Naval Base.

6. Reckless (TV Series, 2014-present )

The cast from CBS’s newest drama, Reckless, have been spotted on many occasions around downtown Charleston. The series premiered in June and uses Charleston’s sultry scenery and charm to complement the scandalous storyline.

Notable Filming locations: The “Four Corners of Law” at the intersection of Broad Street and Meeting Street (Charleston City Hall shown below), South Battery homes and The College of Charleston Campus.

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Concierge Tip: Take a day trip to Cypress Gardens, Boone Hall Plantation, or Middleton Place to learn more about the historic settings that have recently acquired fame thanks to these star-studded films. Looking to stay in the Peninsula? Our concierge team has provide a map here with the sites that have been featured in movies and TV shows listed above, without stepping a foot outside of downtown Charleston!

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