Rialto Theatre

1481 Broadway,
New York, NY 10036

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Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on May 27, 2007 at 4:00 am

This April, 1940 photo gives a rare view of the 42nd Street marquee and entrance to the underground shopping arcade that connected the Rialto Theatre building to the Times Square subway station. Note the mention of 20 stores, a barber shop, and public telephone booths. “Fiesta” was the name of a dance hall upstairs on the second floor. The adjacent Republic Theatre was presenting burlesque, but prohibited by a NYC ordinance from using that word:

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on May 8, 2007 at 8:36 pm

Wareen, another fantastic photo — it practically sizzles off the computer screen. It feels like I’m there.

Mikeoaklandpark on May 8, 2007 at 7:53 am

This theatre was also used as a legit broadway house in the late 70 -early 80’s. I remember them playing Black and Blue with Leslie Uggums

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on May 8, 2007 at 4:00 am

In November, 1947, the Rialto presented the American premiere engagement of Julien Duvivier’s “Panique,” with the title translated into English for dunces. The dazzling marquee display was paid for by the film’s distributor: www.i8.photobucket.com/albums/a18/Warrengwhiz/romance1947.jpg

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on March 28, 2007 at 5:36 pm

The marquee depicted in that 1973 image posted by Warren was the one closest to the corner of Seventh Avenue. This was the auxilliary entrance to the street level Rialto auditorium. I never went to the Rialto, but I understand that using this entrance, patrons entered the theater near the screen. The entrance to the basement level Rialto II was a few doors to the east – just out of frame to the left in the ‘73 image.

I’m positive of that because the Rialto II operated on a grind in the late ‘80’s while Cineplex Odeon re-opened the B'way entrance to the main theater as the Warner, playing first run. During that time, the auxilliary marquee depicted in the shot was used to call attention to the “10 Exciting Theaters” the Duece had to offer. Check out the image I posted above on February 10th, 2007, for illustration.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on March 27, 2007 at 2:11 am

I’m sure you’re correct — the upper right corner of the pic shows the Art Moderne windows of the Rialto Building.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 26, 2007 at 4:51 am

This 1973 image probably shows the 42nd Street entrance to the subterranean Rialto 2, but I’m not 100% sure. Can anyone verify?

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 24, 2007 at 5:42 am

Whatever became of the color image of the original Rialto that once graced this page but was supposed to be moved to that theatre’s listing (#16666). Perhaps it got lost in transit?

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 14, 2007 at 7:29 am

In 1949, the Rialto presented the NYC premiere engagement of “Savage Splendor,” an hour-long African documentary in Technicolor that proved RKO Radio’s most profitable release of that year. In support was “Mighty Manhattan, New York’s Wonder City,” an MGM two-reeler in Technicolor with narration by James A. Fitzpatrick of travelogue fame: www.i8.photobucket.com/albums/a18/Warrengwhiz/rialto049.jpg

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 10, 2007 at 4:23 pm

Scanned from a 1988 edition of the New York Daily News Sunday Magazine, devoted to the history of Times Square:

Greatest Movies in USA

By this time, one of the two marquees on 42nd Street was used to welcome folks to the block’s “10 exciting theaters” while the other (presumably for the newer Rialto II basement theater) was used to advertise the usual Kung Fu action fare. Meanwhile, the main auditorium utilized the Seventh Ave/B'way marquee and entrance around the corner for the more mainstream fare with which it (as well as other Duece theaters) hoped to lure general audiences.

RobertR on January 30, 2007 at 11:04 am

The Devil in it’s second year
View link

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on December 11, 2006 at 2:54 pm

I remember that Playland arcade to the right of the Rialto from back in the 1980’s. The Chinese joint next door was a Wendy’s at the time. The Rialto was such a weird theater – not that I ever attended a film there – in that I it had three marquees. The one on Broadway, seen in Warren’s photo, was dark a lot with the entrance closed. The twin marquees (for the Rialto I and II) were around the corner on 42nd Street, where the box office was located. I think Cineplex Odeon re-opened the B'way entrance when they took a stab at scheduling first-run fare here as the Warner Theater just before the whole place was shuttered for good. During these short years, I think the 42nd Street marquees were dark, since the block was becoming a ghost town at the time.

Anyone remember the big Playland arcade up near the RKO Cinerama that was open to both Seventh Avenue and Broadway? I think that was in the old Castro Convertible building, if I’m not mistaken, between 47th and 48th.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on December 11, 2006 at 1:42 pm

I don’t think it’s the Deuce…it’s the Broadway/7th Avenue entrance.

42ndStreetMemories on December 11, 2006 at 11:18 am

Hey, Warren. I thought we had exhausted every internet image of the Deuce. Where did you come up with the new stuff? jerry

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on December 10, 2006 at 3:32 pm

Nice view of Broadway streetscape, Warren. Well done.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on December 10, 2006 at 7:05 am

In August, 1958, the Rialto presented the NYC premiere engagement of these “Twin Terrifying Terrors”:

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on September 26, 2006 at 3:25 am

The color image in the introduction needs to be removed. It shows the original Rialto and should be shifted to the listing for that theatre (#16,666).

AlAlvarez on September 26, 2006 at 12:09 am

Ed, the Rialto East was the Pix.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on September 25, 2006 at 5:34 pm

Where and what was the Rialto East?

RobertR on September 25, 2006 at 2:30 pm

A 1969 two theatre play
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42ndStreetMemories on August 15, 2006 at 5:52 am

A friend emailed this NYT article to me recently. jerry

July 19, 1987
STREETSCAPES: THE RIALTO THEATER; A Times Sq. Cinema Nurtured By the ‘Merchant of Menace'

LEAD: IT is apparently the largest glass block facade in New York City, an unusual Art Moderne theater of blue and white glass with streamlined aluminum fins.

IT is apparently the largest glass block facade in New York City, an unusual Art Moderne theater of blue and white glass with streamlined aluminum fins.

But the building that once housed the old Rialto Theater is scheduled to make way next year for the joint city-state 42d Street Development Project, unless the building’s long-term lessees can prevent condemnation, or the project falls through. In fact, a new theater, the Cineplex Odeon Warner, has recently opened in the old Rialto space.

The 1935 Rialto, at the northwest corner of 42d and Seventh Avenue, was designed with a 750-seat theater with stores on the ground and subway levels, a special subway entrance and offices and a restaurant above with a circular dance floor.

The architects of the Rialto were Thomas Lamb and Rosario Candela. Lamb was a prolific theater architect; he also designed the Empire Theater at 236 West 42d Street, among others. Candela had designed many luxury apartments on Fifth and Park Avenues in the 1920’s.

But the Rialto had little precedent. Above a first floor of unexceptional storefronts, the second floor was composed of alternating deep blue glass with white marbling and strips of metal. Above these were protruding aluminum fins similar to those found on engines and other mechanical equipment. The third floor was composed entirely of cream-colored glass blocks in alternating curved and faceted bays.

A parapet wall and an 80-foot-high corner tower, also in the same glass, crowned the building. The upper section had an illuminated strip sign carrying local and entertainment news.

Lewis Mumford, the urban historian and architectural critic, writing in The New Yorker in 1936, described the colors as ‘'unspeakable’‘ and said the overall design was a ’‘wisecrack.’‘ But a 1935 newspaper article called the building ’‘the most ambitious glass structure thus far,’‘ and the same system was used in building the Queens-Midtown Tunnel in 1940.

The Rialto opened for Christmas of 1935 with Frank Buck’s ‘'Fang and Claw.’‘ The theater’s manager, Arthur Mayer, saw the Rialto as distinctly masculine in tone. Most theaters, he said in a newspaper interview after the opening, were ’‘rococo, luxurious palaces for the uxorious,’‘ both in styling and choice of films. His theater, both in styling and presentations, sought to satisfy the ’‘ancient and unquenchable male thirst for mystery, menace and manslaughter.’‘ He was soon called the ’‘merchant of menace.’'

The restaurant was apparently removed around 1950, and its space taken over for a succession of studio uses, including the Joe Franklin television show. As West 42d Street declined, so did the theater, and by the 1960’s it was satisfying another seemingly ‘'ancient and unquenchable thirst’‘ – for pornographic movies. In the early 1980’s, it had a short run as a theater for stage plays.

The Times Square area has been the focus of various redevelopment plans. The most recent involves the renovation of most of the theaters, and the replacement of the Rialto building with an office building. The decision on what buildings to preserve was based, in part, on a 1981 report by two historians, Adolf Placzek and Dennis McFadden, who said the Rialto had ‘'no outstanding merit.’‘ Their report also found the Candler Building, at 220 West 42d Street, was not eligible for landmark regulation.

But in 1980, the building had already been independently recommended by New York State for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. And the Landmarks Commission recently held hearings on the designation of another Art Moderne theater, the Metro, on Broadway near 99th.

The Rialto building is owned by the Kohlberg family trust. An officer at the Chemical Bank, which administers the trust, said the bank will not oppose the condemnation proceedings. But the Brandt Organization, which holds a 100-year lease on the building from the trust that dates to 1953, is opposing the project. It would terminate Brandt’s lease, now well below market value. The Brandts have recently subleased the Rialto Theater to the Cineplex Odeon Corporation, which has spent $1.5 million to reopen the theater.

A spokesman for Cineplex Odeon said the Times Square project, which would mean the demolition of the building, was considered ‘'only a possibility, not a certainty.’'

  • Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
Ed Solero
Ed Solero on August 3, 2006 at 4:32 am

I had the same question, Don, when I posted the ad on the Times Square and on the Victory pages here. I thought it might not have been a true hardcore “X”, just a soft “X” with the “Adults Only” gimmick to generate interest. CT member Jerry Kovar confirmed that the film, “Female Fever”, was just an “R” masquerading as porn for exploitation purposes.

DonRosen on August 3, 2006 at 2:23 am

I didn’t realize that the Times Square 42nd St Theatre showed porn. I thought just 4th run movies.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on August 2, 2006 at 11:36 am

Here’s a cluster of Adult ads from the Daily News on 1/25/1978 featuring bookings at three different Duece grinders including the Rialto (day and dating with Eastworld on 59th street):

Call me for title…
One gathered from the advertisement that the very title of the film was so offensive that one had to call the number listed to hear star Gloria Leonard utter the nasty phrase in privacy. Of course, it was a complete gimmick. The film – as is the artwork hints at – was simply called “Marschino Cherry”.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on May 24, 2006 at 10:16 am

The listing of “architect” needs to be changed. Rosario Candela was the sole architect of this, the second Rialto. Thomas W. Lamb was only responsible for the first Rialto, which now has a separate listing thanks to Al Alvarez.