Rialto Theatre

1481 Broadway,
New York, NY 10036

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Showing 76 - 100 of 127 comments

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.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez 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
View link

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”.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on May 24, 2006 at 7:59 am

Scrounging around the web, I came across these two shots below. Neither one focuses on the Rialto Building and the theater constructed in 1935, but the Rialto marquees sort of figure prominently.

1967 View
1975 View

The best image I’ve seen of the ‘35 Rialto Building (albeit at the bitter end of its existence) is from the nyc-architecture site I posted back on January 12th. Here’s the shot again:

Early 90’s Rialto Bldg

You can see the wrap around awning signage on the corner of the building evidencing the original Broadway lobby’s use as a “Visitors and Travel Information” center during the time.

longislandmovies on May 24, 2006 at 4:02 am

Cineplex odeon never opened the porn side as the ceilings were to low and the support beams for the building ran down the center of the porn auditorium.Both sides had a common basement door to go back and forth for staff.

longislandmovies on May 24, 2006 at 3:57 am

I was the manager of this thater when CINEPLEX odeon opened it, the Warner name was used to replace the old warner that had closed at 1500Broadway…The theater at one time had a box office on Brodaway and 42nd street…the 42nd street side lead to a basement theater that showed porn…..The Broadway side 1st run. .

42ndStreetMemories on May 9, 2006 at 9:50 am

I was just looking at a book in the library called “1950s” by Jane Duden. Not much of a book but it does have a small shot of the Rialto taken from the south side of 42nd Street. Double bill is surprisingly conventional WE’RE NOT MARRIED and BROKEN ARROW. If this was during the original run of WE’RE NOT MARRIED that would put the year at 1952. j the k

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 24, 2006 at 2:00 pm

For a short time in the late sixties-early seventies this became the Rialto West, the basement theatre continued as the Rialto II, and the Pix became the Rialto East. All three played soft-core films.

Cineplex Odeon indeed never used the basement theatre due to subway noise and the trouble they already had securing first-run product for this venue. UNCLE BUCK and a 70mm move-over of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA from the Ziegfeld were among it’s biggest hits.

TSnelson on April 19, 2006 at 3:13 am

Hi, my names Tim and I’m doing a PhD in 1940s horror films and horror spectatorship. I’m particularly interested in who was visiting specialist horror cinemas like the Rialto during the war. I have got hold of a lot of the relevant NYT articles and Mayer’s biography which are great sources, but if anyone has any more anecdotal info, other articles or leads on archives I would be really, really grateful to hear from you either through this or my email: .uk I’m in the UK so it’s hard for me to access NY archives at the mo, but hopefully next year I will be able to. Thanks to everyone above for some already great stuff.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 8, 2006 at 7:03 am

Right. Warren… I can’t think of anyone better than yourself to add a listing for the original Rialto. Have you compiled enough information on the original theater to do so? Ross and Patrick will have to move the photo from the top of this page to the new one, should you decide to proceed.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 8, 2006 at 6:38 am

An interesting article appeared in this past Sunday’s NY Times Real Estate section about the Rialto’s architect, Rosario Candela. Several photos accompany the article, including one long shot of the Rialto building. Here’s a passage regarding the theater:

<<In 1935, Anthony Campagna, one of Candela’s regular clients, brought in the $250,000 Rialto building, at the northwest corner of 42nd Street and Seventh Avenue. Candela abandoned the country-house Georgian style he had perfected with his luxury co-ops, adopting instead a flashy Art Moderne of chunky blue glass panels, rounded milky glass forms with strips of metal, and aluminum finlike assemblies that looked like engine cooling blocks.

That the New Yorker critic Lewis Mumford called it “unspeakable” probably hurt very little â€" in a year when the majority of new structures were one or two stories high, this was a plum project. The Reuters building is now on the site.>>

Imagine… $250,000 to construct the entire building! I wonder how that translates to 2006 dollars?

Here’s a link to the full article with photos (don’t know how long it will be active): View link

BobT on January 13, 2006 at 6:38 am

I posted this weird experience the other day on The Times Square Theatre post. Thanks EsSolero!

Ok deja vu! I was reading about a series of movies in the 60’s called “New York Roughies”, which were basically silent, overdubbed later, black & white nudie flix with little plot that played the grindhouses of 42nd street. So I rent one from NetFlix. Ok, came today, it’s called “The Ultimate Degenerate” by Michael and Roberta Findlay on Something Weird DVD. Their story alone would make a good film. So I’m watching this “masterpiece”, sorry, not my cup of tea but an interesting time capsule non the less and low and behold they have a Times Square night shot. They showed The Victoria showing Sammy Davis Jr. & Peter Lawford in “Salt And Pepper” and The Rialto on the corner of Broadway & 42nd playing “Therese and Isabelle” and then the shot turns the corner down 42nd street. What comes up first is a beautiful shot of a marquee with “That Woman” 13th Big Week playing. Finish the flick, click onto Cinema Treasures, see this post, click on EdSolero’s link and there is the same marquee shot only during the day! All in an hour’s time. Too cool.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on January 13, 2006 at 4:57 am

Interesting, Joe. I wonder if they still have some of the material in their Chelsea store.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 13, 2006 at 3:24 am

I’ve found a page about the Rialto at the web site of a firm that sells architectural antiques. They mined the building for its relics before it was demolished. Their text claims that the building was built in 1898, and merely renovated, rather than rebuilt from the ground up (though they claim that the renovation took place in the 1920’s, which seems unlikely, as the decorative details on the exterior are surely 1930’s era streamline moderne style.) They show a small but decent photo of the theatre in its last days, and the exterior design does look as though it had been attached to an older structure.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on January 12, 2006 at 5:57 am

I forgot to add: Note the message to “Stop Pay TV” on the top of the Victory Theater marquee in that same photo!!! By doing some searchin on imdb.com, I was able to determine that the Victory marquee advertises “The Notorious Daughter of Fanny Hill” as the main feature along with “A Smell of Honey, A Swallow of Brine”, both of which are listed with a 1966 release and both starring one Stacey Walker – apparently a high school drop out from Texas who made these two sexploitation flicks and then high-tailed it back to Texas to finish school and resume a life of complete obscurity. The 3rd “extra” attraction appears to be called “The Casting Director” for which imdb has only sketchy information but lists as a short 6 minute striptease film released in Finland (!) in 1968.

The Eva Renzi flick at the Rialto, “That Woman” (in its “13th Big Week”) is also listed for 1966 on imdb. Perhaps the “The Casting Director” was also released in 1966 in the U.S. and that is the year of the photo?

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on January 12, 2006 at 5:32 am

While searching for updates on the renovation of the Times Square Theater, I came across this web page from a site about NY architecture. There are some excellent photos taken over the years of the north side of 42nd Street, including a late ‘60’s image of one of the Rialto marquees proclaiming it to be “New York’s Newest Movie Theater”. I assume this was the new Rialto 2 marquee for the auditorium created in the basement and that the identical adjacent marquee (seen in one of the other photos on the page) was the relocated entrance that led one in behind the screen of the original 1930’s era Rialto Theater auditorium.

Does anyone have an exact date when that work was done? I know the entrance was later relocated back to 7th Ave when the theater was re-dubbed the Warner for a last gasp at life in the ‘80’s.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on November 28, 2005 at 7:21 am

I agree, Warren. I imagine you have sufficient information to add that page, particularly now that the site seems to be back up and running at full strength. Were both theaters listed at the same address? I know the newer Rialto also had a marquee around the corner on 42nd Street — for some reason I want to say there were two small triangular marquees right next to each other on 42nd street near the old subway entrance that was on the curb facing east… am I wrong about that? I never found my way into the Rialto during my days of frequenting the grind houses on the Duece.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on November 4, 2005 at 5:42 pm

This double bill must be the reason my grandfather had once told me that the Rialto Theater was where all the Universal monster movies of the ‘30’s played. I’ve seen copies of advertisements for those movies here that would evidence otherwise, but the one you posted, RobertR, vindicates my grandfather’s recollections to some degree. He’d have been 16 or 17 at the time, depending on the month it was released. He grew up in Harlem and Washington Heights, but made his way down to Times Square as often as his means allowed (“I would take the subway downtown for a nickel, kiddo!!! Then 10 cents got me a ticket and another dime some candy and a soda pop!!! The world was mine for two bits!!!”)