By Dan Shine
The Rivoli Theater
Back in 1959, the boy could spend all of a Saturday afternoon watching black-and-white television—for there were two wonderful channels available, 3 and 8! And on Saturdays, the small, fuzzy screen was alive with the Western adventures of those two heroic figures, The Lone Ranger, and Sky King–one caught the bad guys while riding his horse–the other one used his twin-engine Cessna to accomplish the same thing.
But on some Saturdays as a treat, the boy and his sister were dropped off at the Rivoli theater, across from the West Haven Post Office, for the 1:30 matinee. Each of them was given two quarters—coins which were made of silver back then—and they were sent on their way.
The movie tickets were 35 cents each, and that left 15 cents with which to purchase a candy bar and a soda, next door at the Rivoli Sweet Shop. The movies were still generally presented in black-and-white. One fall Saturday, the mystery serial “The Iron Claw” was followed by the feature, “Jason and the Argonauts.” And after the movie, the boy and his sister walked together the two miles home, with none of the fears held by the children and parents of today.
At one time, the Rivoli and the Forest Theater were just two of a number of theaters located in West Haven and Savin Rock. In the long-ago days before television and mega-theaters, The Rivoli showed feature movies every evening, and it was open from 6:00 to 9:00. On some nights, the theater would give out plates or glasses to those who attended; sometimes, they even gave out money prizes as a draw.
But by 1972, the Rivoli could no longer survive, and it was closed and demolished. The Forest Theater, at the intersection of the Post Road and Forest Road, managed to eke out a living until its demise just a few years ago. Today, where once there were three theaters in the center of town alone—The Rivoli, The Orange and the Cameo—there is no longer a single West Haven movie theater.