Rialto Theatre

1481 Broadway,
New York, NY 10036

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Showing 26 - 50 of 127 comments

korgsman on September 1, 2009 at 11:50 am

ken mc, given the show at the Lyric, this looks to be circa 1985 not 1979.

jflundy on July 1, 2009 at 10:54 am

Photo link, 23 November 1939, courtesy of Warren. This is a very interesting one:
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kencmcintyre on June 17, 2009 at 3:08 pm

Here is a November 1979 photo from the NY Daily News:

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on March 3, 2009 at 9:44 pm

Excerpt from NY Times review of “I Walked with a Zombie” (1943)

“Horror” pictures are enjoying a peculiar popularity the country over at the moment, according to box-office statistics, so it seems reasonable to assume that RKO has a safe bet in “I Walked With a Zombie,” which opened yesterday to a packed house at the Rialto and, at one point, drew a horrified scream from a woman patron. It’s just like the days of old when “The Bat” and “The Gorilla” were scaring audiences out of their wits, and “Frankenstein’s Monster” was making the night hideous for children and the more impressionable oldsters.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on November 5, 2008 at 5:44 am

Well said, Ed. I couldn’t agree more.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on November 4, 2008 at 10:01 pm

Just wanted to chime in on a brief thread from back around October 8th – Times Square and 42nd Street certainly did have character back in those days and was a convenient little slice of NYC where one could indulge in a variety of cheap thrills. I miss the carny atmosphere and the honky tonk… The way those theatres would try to lure you in with over-the-top billboards and advertising… The come-ons from the sidewalk barkers hawking for the adult shows and peeps. Plus the Square wasn’t so over-developed and crowded. There was a sense of space… low slung buildings mixed with a few mid- and hi-rise towers. It didn’t crowd in on you with one imposing glass tower after another as it does now.

The crime? Who misses the crime? But crime in NYC was rampant in the ‘70’s and '80’s… nothing unique to this section of town there.

I often wonder what would have become of the area had it been allowed to change organically as the crime rate dropped and the economy boomed in the ‘90’s. I suppose that without the promise of eminent domain and a comprehensive City-backed redevelopment plan, we’d have never seen the New Amsterdam and Victory Theatres renovated as magnificently as they’ve been. And while many of the grindhouses were still drawing significant crowds on weekend nights into the late 1980’s, the rising popularity home video and proliferation of specialty cable networks (Showtime Beyond, IFC, ActionMax, HBO Zone, etc) have rendered the good old grimy grindhouse obsolete. Most of the types of films that would have made either the top or bottom half of the typical bill on 42nd Street now go direct to cable or DVD. And the porn industry exists almost entirely on video and the web. Time would most definitely have passed the grindhouse by and left it at the mercy of landlords looking to turn a profit.

I’m happy that the City’s plans did provide for the preservation and restoration of several theaters along the block… I just wonder why it was necessary to rush in the bulldozers on so many of the great palaces that once lined Broadway. It’s more than just regrettalbe that the rich history of motion picture exhibition in Times Square was given such short shrift – it’s downright criminal.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on October 21, 2008 at 8:31 am

An excerpt from the NY Times review of “Unknown Island'” dated 1/8/49:

From the numbers of stolid young gentlemen who were shoving their muscular way into the Rialto Theatre yesterday, one might reasonably assume that there is considerable local interest in paleontology. For the lurid front of the theatre, where a film called “Unknown Island” went on view, displayed a quite fetching assortment of illustrations of prehistoric beasts. Various horrendous dinosauria and simian monsters were pictured there. And it was plain that the eager young gentlemen could not resist the appeal.

We regret, however, to inform you that the treatise which they saw within is not an entirely dependable scientific report. And we rather gathered from the comments of several who departed therefrom that their intellectual curiosity had not been completely gratified. For it must be frankly acknowledged that “Unknown Island” is a pretty flabby piece of fanciful movie-making in the “King Kong” and “Lost World” line.

It might be added that the film is in Cinecolor, dominated by a shade of sickly green.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on October 8, 2008 at 1:35 pm

saps, Rialto II would have been the basement screen here in September of 1969.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on October 8, 2008 at 1:24 pm

Not everyone was dangerous. Here’s an excerpt from a New York Times review dated Sept. 6, 1969:

“…intimations of mortality passed through my mind yesterday afternoon at the Rialto II where [Russ] Meyer’s newest film, ‘Finders Keepers, Lovers Weepers,’ opened to a large and docile audience.”

(Does the Rialto II have its own listing here? I couldn’t find one.)

kencmcintyre on October 8, 2008 at 11:27 am

I just went there for fun. Perhaps if I was exposed on a daily basis, I might have had a different opinion, but to me it was always an enjoyable time in the city.

BobFurmanek on October 8, 2008 at 11:25 am

I worked in New York from 1978 to 1984. Times Square and 42nd street was a mess and a filthy cesspool, especially after 10PM. I wouldn’t want to go back to that for anything.

kencmcintyre on October 8, 2008 at 11:21 am

I was looking at Ed Solero’s photo of 9/6/07, and it really brought back memories of Times Square in the 70s and 80s. Although most of the theaters showed porn and there were hookers everywhere, to me that’s what the big city was like. I preferred that to the Guliani/Disney Times Square of today. I think a city should have a little grit.

tsstv on October 8, 2008 at 10:44 am

Here’s some of the TV Studio information from a former Times Square Studios employee.

Following WOR, Times Square Studios (TSS) owned by Marcelino Miyares opened in the 80’s with FNN-Financial News Network. When they moved out, the facility operated a variety of programs from two studios, one on the 3rd floor (Studio 3) and the other on the 4th floor (Studio 4). Both studios were above the main Rialto Theater. The decrepit mechanical room housing HVAC was above Studio 4.

Rumor had it some of the staff used to go up on the roof, get drunk and throw up on tourists below.

Some of the shows included Geraldo, Jane Pratt (short lived Fox talk show), Montel Williams, Nick News with Linda Ellerbee, numerous sports and cable shows as well as tapings for corporate videos such as Citibank.

Studio 3 housed green rooms; make up rooms, general client office space, video control room, audio control room, scenic storage, master control and engineering housing the equipment, video camera control (camera shading), the engineering repair office and the lighting director’s office. A small independent music producer was also sharing space on this floor.

Studio 4 is where the talk shows were taped (Geraldo, Jane and Montel). In addition to the studio support rooms as described in Studio 3, there was an audience holding area and electronic graphics department.

The main entrance to the studios at 1481 Broadway was the first door just north of the Rialto box office in between the theater and the arcade. The common staircase separated 1481 and 1485 Broadway. TSS’s general office space was actually in 1485 Broadway above the arcade. Joe Franklin’s office was up the staircase to the left located in a nook above the Rialto and below Studio 3.

We attempted to take over the Rialto upper theater and convert into a talk show stage but the cloud of condemnation from the Times Square Redevelopment Project always hung over it. We eventually gave up on that plan. In 1995/1996 TSS was forced heavy handedly to shut down. The city posted a security detail inside to prevent further operations but we did not go out without a fight. As a matter of fact, the music producer barricaded himself inside so the city wouldn’t confiscate his recording equipment.

Eventually, TSS gave in to bankruptcy and an auction was held for its equipment assets.

BTW, we did find and keep the WOR Romper Room Bumble Bee set piece in scenic storage.

The building was a fun place to work in.

Rory on September 23, 2008 at 7:09 pm

Cool photo! Thanks.

BobFurmanek on September 22, 2008 at 11:08 am

Here’s the Rialto all decked out for HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN in 1944:

View link

SethLewis on August 22, 2008 at 6:23 am

In my New York lifetime 1960s-1980s, this was never more than an adult grindhouse. Then Cineplex Odeon in one of Garth Drabinsky’s mysterious ways, bought it up and renamed it the Warner. Saw Drugstore Cowboy there on a sub-run with a mysterious neon sign announcing a non existent screen 2

RobertR on August 22, 2008 at 5:51 am

I never knew it was the “House of Hits” :)
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Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on July 17, 2008 at 12:08 pm

The Rialto II in the basement appears to have operated from 1968 to the mid-seventies. Since the main Rialto never closed one has to wonder where the space came from. Perhaps it was the old restaurant/TV studio space mentioned in Jerry Korvac’s post on Aug 15, 2006?

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 7, 2008 at 7:06 am

In 1935 the Roxy advertised a “Big Stage Show” with no headliners on hold-overs and the Capitol had stopped running stage shows altogether.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 6, 2008 at 1:50 pm

Only six films ran more than a week at the Roxy in 1935. Distributors rarely enforced a contractual second week if attendance is not there because of the house nut guarantee. The two week minimum contract goes out the window on a flop even today. It was even less common with distributor owned depression era theatres.

The Capitol had generally longer runs in 1935 with DAVID COPPERFIELD running five weeks and MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY running four weeks).

CHINA SEAS, ANNA KARENINA and A NIGHT AT THE OPERA ran for three weeks each.

Rory on January 4, 2008 at 8:19 pm

That’s very interesting about BRIDE, considering that the Roxy had over 5000 seats. Another one of my favorite films from the thirties, CHINA SEAS, I’ve read, ran at the Capitol in NYC for three weeks. For those days that’s something.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 4, 2008 at 6:56 pm

THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN premiered at the ROXY and had a rare (for 1935) two week run.