Rialto Theatre

1481 Broadway,
New York, NY 10036

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Benjamin
Benjamin on January 29, 2005 at 11:50 am

I’m thinking that at least some of the TV studios “in” the Rialto, (that were referred to in previous posts), were in the space that looks to me like it was once a ballroom. This ballroom, and other smaller associated office spaces, appeared to me to wrap around the actual lobby and auditorium space of the Railto — in a way similar to the auxilliary spaces that a lot of other Broadway theaters seem to have.

Some other easily seen examples in the theater district of such auxilliary spaces being “part” of a theater are the Belasco, the Shubert and St. James. (On a walking tour of the theaters on 42nd St. that I took in the 1970s, we visited such spaces in, what I believe was, the Lyric Theater.) A less visible — but more amazing example — are the auxilliary spaces associated with Town Hall on 43rd St. I went to a conference in a private club (which I think use to be the NYU’s version of the Harvard Club or Princeton Club) that was built in and around the lobby and auditorium spaces of Town Hall. It was amazing. It was like being in what I imagine a country club to be (with large meeting rooms, a ballroom, etc.)

Looking at the Rialto from diagonally across 42nd St./Seventh Ave., on the ground floor you would see the marquee / entrance to the Rialto on the right, and a row of stores going around the corner. On top of that, you would see a row of “French door” type windows that had been painted in. That’s where, I’m guessing, at least some of the TV studios were.

As far as I can recall, though, the Rialto did not have a “conventional” office building associated with it (the way, for instance, both the New Amsterdam and the Palace had small office buildings built over their lobbies).


In her book, Mary Henderson, mentions a good number of Manhattan theaters that once served as radio or TV playhouses (and movie houses, too). Unfortunately, since her focus is on live theater, her history of what actual radio / TV shows were done (or what movies played) in what theaters is very skimpy. (For instance, I don’t believe she mentions — as has been mentioned elsewhere on this site — that “Gigi” had its premiere NY engagement at the Royale, or that “La Dolce Vita” played the Henry Miller.)

While I know that not ALL of the theaters that were TV studios were in the Times Sq. area, I can only think of a handful that weren’t. For instance, I think there was a movie theater on upper Broadway (in the 80s?) that was used as a TV studio (Sesame St.?). Then there was that “Dick Cavett” theater all the way over on 10th(?) Ave. And the Colonial (Broadway in the 60s), of course, is another. But all the others, I’m aware of are “more or less” in the theater district (e.g., 58th St. or lower).

Are there any others, in particular, that I can add to my list?

(I’m guessing that most of these movie / radio / TV theaters would be in the Times Sq. area, because by the time radio / TV came along, most other “surplus” theaters outside the area had already been demolished. Plus, with such a surplus of theaters available for radio / TV in the highly accessible Times Sq. area, why settle for a theater somewhere else?)

Benjamin
Benjamin on January 29, 2005 at 8:44 am

P.S. — By the way, I believe Joe Franklin did his “Memory Lane” TV show from studios in this building sometime during the 1980s.

For those of you unfamiliar with this show, it was a classic, cult, wonderful/awful TV show, that was shown in NYC beginning in the 1950s(?). Joe Franklin, whom I thought of as kind of like a Dick Clark of sorts (doing the same thing forever and never aging) for New Yorkers of my parents' and grandparents' generation, did a kind of daytime talk show (a la the Tonight Show) that very often had obscure vaudevillians, silent movie stars, etc. as guests. If I remember correctly, Woody Allen incorporated the show into the plot of Broadway Danny Rose.


It appears that the second Rialto originally had some kind of nightlub or dance hall on its second floor (which was probably transformed into the TV studios). If you looked at the building closely, it had these wonderful large french door type windows, which give off this impression anyway. The general “look” of these windows have been incorporated, at a much larger scale, into the facade of one of the new buildings further west along 42nd St.

Also the second Rialto appears to have originally had a partially blue mirrored glass exterior which had been painted over in its later years. In addition, there was some sort of art deco pylon that had a billboard wrapped around it.

I’d love to see a picture of the second Rialto as a new structure. It must have been SOME building!

Benjamin
Benjamin on January 29, 2005 at 8:28 am

tvhistory: I’m interested in finding out more about the TV/radio history of some of the movie/“legit” theaters in New York (especially during the “golden ages” of radio/TV, like the Roxy Center Theatre being used for, I believe, the Milton Berle show), so I found your info about the Rialto fascinating. Do you have any recommendations about how I could find out more (any books, etc.)? Thanks in advance for any further info you have! (I know some day I will have to make my way over to the Museum of Broadcasting and the Library of Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.)

Some interesting info along these lines that I’ve already gotten from the Cinema Treasures site:

Roxy Center — Milton Berle
Ziegfeld — Perry Como

From elsewhere and general knowledge:

Colonial — The Price is Right
Hudson — The (Steve Allen) Tonight Show

And non-movie theaters used for TV:

(forgot original name) — Ed Sullivan Show
(Gallo Opera House) — What’s My Line?; To Tell the Truth

scottfavareille
scottfavareille on November 30, 2004 at 12:30 pm

The Rialto was bought by the Brandts after Arthur Mayer got out of the theater business. By the late 1950’s, it was becoming a “sex house”, showing soft sex pictures. In the mid-1960’s, the Brandts decided to turn it into a “class” house, but the fare was still sex films(largely Radley Metzger/Audibon Films fare), which would pave the way for XXX porn. The book The Ghastly Ones has a good description on how the Brandts wanted payoffs from the sexploitation producers in order to play this theater. (Reportably, playing these films here was quite lucrative.)

longislandmovies
longislandmovies on November 25, 2004 at 6:30 pm

DAVE -BRONX / The RIALTO is also the warner theater as cineplex changed its name and thats how it ended its movie run…..its main claim to fame as the WARNER is playing HELLRAISER and ROBOCOP…..NAMED AFTER THE WARNER TWIN OR STANLEY FROM 1500 BRoadway…….. there was a second theater in the basement that was never used………

DougDouglass
DougDouglass on August 30, 2004 at 1:21 pm

From 1980-82 the Rialto was home to five Broadway musicals.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on August 30, 2004 at 12:48 pm

When it was a porno house in the early 1970’s, I believe the 42nd Street entrance led to a second screen located in the basement. But you could also access the main theatre, entering at the rear behind the screen. I think.

dave-bronx™
dave-bronx™ on August 30, 2004 at 12:31 pm

Wasn’t there a second screen here that Cineplex didn’t use, with the entrance on 42nd Street?

DougDouglass
DougDouglass on March 14, 2004 at 4:12 pm

During the Telestudios days, facilities were used by WNTA-Channel 13 (Newark, NJ) as their New York production center.

wrauffer
wrauffer on February 25, 2004 at 5:16 pm

In 1959 Telestudios started operations on the 4th floor producing the 1st videotape commercials for major advertising agencies.
It became MGM Telestudios in 1962, many tv engineering first.
Closed in 1965
In 1966 NBC produced daily soap “The Doctors"
1968 Channel 9 WOR-TV moved all studios, videotape & master control to the 4th floor.
In 1980 Times Square Studios began daily operations.

RobertR
RobertR on February 11, 2004 at 12:52 pm

EdSolero you are right about the theatre being used as a visitors center. When the theatre first closed they used the lobby for some sort of virtual reality ride. Cineplex did a nice job on the renovations but even though they opened the theatre with the Broadway entrance, it waas still too close to 42nd Street for many movie goers.

William
William on February 11, 2004 at 12:43 pm

The Rialto Theatre was located at 1481 Broadway.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 11, 2003 at 7:59 pm

During the very early stages of the redevelopment of 42nd street and Times Square maybe 10 or 12 years ago, I believe the outer lobby of the Rialto was used as a crude and temporary Visitors Information center or perhaps a volunteer center with information available about the plans to clean up and reclaim the area. Today, the shell of the old Newsreel Theater (later known as the Embassy 1) serves as the official Times Square Visitors Information Center. Anyway, I remember my Grandfather telling me that this is the theater where many of those classic Universal horror films (Dracula, Frankenstein) of the 30’s and 40’s would premier.

richarddziadzio
richarddziadzio on May 28, 2002 at 10:58 am

Around 1979 Cineplex Odeon remodeled the theatre very nicely, even renaming it the Warner for a short time after their big Warner on 47th St. closed.

frenchjr25
frenchjr25 on January 7, 2002 at 9:52 am

For those interested there is a wonderful photo of this theatre in “The Best Remaining Seats” by Ben M. Hall.