LA CROSSE Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – One of downtown La Crosse’s oldest businesses is getting a new lease on life. That’s a sentence the La Crosse native has always dreamed of hearing. Jonathan Gelatt is a co-owner of the Rivoli theatre.
“It’s so exciting, and it’s something I’ve thought about for a long time, and now that it’s a reality, it’s kind of surreal.”
The more than 100-year-old theatre was purchased by Gelatt and his two siblings earlier this year. The family has now transitioned from patrons…to owners.
“We’ve been coming here since we were kids, and when I moved back to town in 2016, I feel like every six months I would text my brother and be like, is this the year we’re going to try and buy the Rivoli.”
Gelatt considers the Rivoli his favorite place in La Crosse, saying the building’s roots make it special.
“The 100-year-old definitely adds a layer of uniqueness to the theater because you don’t see that many movie theaters that are that old, and you don’t see that many movie theaters that are this old and are still running.”
The fact that the Rivoli’s lifespan has stretched from 1920 all the way to 2022 means it also has deep roots in the community.
“This place wouldn’t really survive if it wasn’t in a downtown like La Crosse’s, so I think it goes both ways where the Rivoli makes downtown more special, and downtown, in return, makes the Rivoli more special.”
Since the Rivoli has been around for more than a century, Gelatt says it needs a bit of a makeover.
“We will do a historically accurate renovation of this theater. We’re redoing the party room, that should hopefully be back open and up and running in the fall, and then we’ll redo the screening room, which is our second theater room.”
The programming slate for the theatre is also getting an overhaul.
While newer films like Top Gun: Maverick and Minions: The Rise of Gru will be playing at the Rivoli, an effort is being made to mix in older classics, such as Back to the Future and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, along with different month-long themes and special one-night events.
“This first month, it was a lot of classic blockbusters. In August, we’ll be doing a lot of comedies. We’re going to try and keep it that way where there’ll be a theme to the programming outside of the newer movies, and then we really are going to start playing with one-night events, so for example, we’re going to play the godfather later this week as a tribute to James Caan.”
The ultimate goal for Gelatt is to maintain the Rivoli’s distinctive charm, while drawing in a new generation of moviegoers.
“I would just love it if it became, you know, another jewel that La Crosse has. It already is, but I just want to bring that up even more.”
Gelatt plans to start distributing a newsletter in August to keep the community up to date with everything going on at the Rivoli. The original Batman and Superman films are playing at the Rivoli this week alongside the Minions sequel.
Showings of Jordan Peele’s newest film ‘nope’ will begin on Friday.