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Santa Barbara International Film Festival Will Make Riviera Theatre Home for Year-round Programs

The SBIFF Board of Directors announces new lease, program expansions and renovation plans for the theater

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival nonprofit is moving its year-round programs to the Riviera Theatre, the board of directors announced Thursday.
The Santa Barbara International Film Festival nonprofit is moving its year-round programs to the Riviera Theatre, the board of directors announced Thursday.  (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival will move all its year-round programs to the Riviera Theatre, the Board of Directors announced Thursday. 

Board members approved the move in March and negotiated a lease with The Towbes Group for the theater at 2044 Alameda Padre Serra. 

“Think of it like 11-and-a-half months at the Riviera and two weeks at the Arlington,” said Sean Pratt, director of operations for the SBIFF nonprofit organization.

The large February film festival will stay downtown, using various theaters to show films and host events, but the organization will move and expand its year-round programs to the Riviera Theatre, Pratt said.

A previous version of this story reported that the Riviera Theatre would be the new home for all SBIFF events, but only year-round programs will be consolidating at that venue. 

The goal is to make the Riviera Theatre a cultural hub for all things film — with mini film festivals, monthly free family film screenings, more movie field trips for local students, and an opportunity to show films that otherwise wouldn’t have a theatrical release in town, Pratt said.

SBIFF will continue working closely with the Metropolitan Theaters Corporation and likely have a partnership long-term about sharing the Riviera space, he said.

Renovations are planned for the theater including new seats, a new screen and projection system, and improvements to the sound system and ventilation. 

The Riviera Theatre has 427 seats now and will have slightly less after the seats are replaced with more comfortable ones during the renovations.

Construction will begin in January 2017, since SBIFF year-round programs usually take a break in January and February to focus on the big downtown festival, Pratt said. 

“As we enter our 32nd year, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival has cemented itself as a part of our great city’s history,” SBIFF board president Mark Scher said in a statement.

“We believe a long-term home at the Riviera Theatre is a pivotal point in the evolution of SBIFF and will allow us the opportunity to greatly expand our programming and bring a real cultural center for film to the Santa Barbara Community. I couldn’t be more thrilled for SBIFF and the city of Santa Barbara.”

Moving programs to the Riviera Theatre will help the festival serve more students and families through programs such as AppleBox Family Films and Mike’s Field Trip to the Movies​. 

Year-round programs including the Cinema Society, Rosebud Program for Film Students and the Wave Film Festival will continue at the Riviera Theatre and The Showcase, featuring independent films, will move there from the Plaza de Oro. 

“Over the years we have brought the Riviera campus to an entirely new quality level,” said Michael Towbes, chairman of The Towbes Group, in a statement.

“The historic significance of the campus, dating back to its locating on the Riviera in 1913, makes it a very special place for me and the Santa Barbara community. The upgrades which SBIFF plans to make to the theater will complete the campus improvements which we began some 40 years ago. They will greatly enhance the audience experience and honor the legacy of the building.”

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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