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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'
By CHRISTOPHER GRAY
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.’'
I posted this about 18 months ago so forgive me for doing so again.
But this film clip has a great shot of the north side of 42nd Street, the way that I like to remember it. 1956 is the date. jerry
Great film clips of the premiere of Jimmy Stewart’s THUNDER BAY. Hopefully this hasn’t been posted earlier. Film is dated 1953.
The artist was the great Frank Frazetta. I have the half sheet from The Gauntlet hanging in my garage. jerry
Here’s a couple of websites: http://frankfrazetta.org/ AND http://frankfrazetta.com/
The film was one of those “R” rated softcores. The Times Square was one of my favorite theaters in the 50s, since it was nothing but westerns. Sorry it came to this.
Here’s the poster.
Funny stuff, Ed.
Can’t imagine any entertainer, or ANYBODY for that matter, who would want to be vulnerable on a stage – on The Deuce – when 100 flying discs have just been distributed.
Great ad. jerry
You shouldn’t be selling your product by posting to every theater you can think of. I reported this to the site owners and I hope they do something about it.
There’s a bad joke there somewhere, RobertR
Peter, I’m no technical genius but I can tell you that the glasses were red (right eye) and blue (left) from Deep Vision 3-D. So I assume anaglyph.
The film had some nice 3-D depth but very little action “jumping off the screen” as advertised. Leonard Maltin says its one of the weaker uses of early 3-D. Still, it’s a better movie in 3-D. jk
My wife and I had the pleasure of seeing IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE in 3-D yesterday as part of the Tampa’s classics series. Before the film, patrons take pictures of the palace, there is a 20 minute organ recital of movie tunes, coming attractions of next week’s CASABLANCA. What a thrill! Great atmosphere! You have to see a classic here, it’s our time machine. jerry
This trash at The Victoria and GINGER at the Astor.
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
Great job, Ed. Truly a labor of love. And the image title “doors to nowhere” seems very appropriate. jerry
Looks like 1947, the year that CRY WOLF with Stanwyck & Flynn came out. jerry
Here’s a shot of both. jerry
The New York showing mild dramas with ramped up marketing, 1957
Found a great frontal shot from 1936 pre-RKO. jerry
I visited this theater when my wife and I “discovered” it during a day trip about 5 years ago, on our honeymoon.
We wished that we could have returned for an evening showing.
We did meet the cinema’s caretaker and we tried in vein to communicate with him. I even tried to purchase the lobby cards on display. He was trying to sell us on returning that evening for “GLADIATOR” which would have been real cool to see in this setting.
Hope to get back. jerry
www.fillmore-east.com appears to have been abandoned. Does anyone know of a definitive website dedicated to the Fillmore. Especially a complete listing of the concerts. jerry the k
Although I wasn’t looking for the Apollo (42nd Street), I do have a few ad copies from the NY Times microfiche of the 1950s. So you should see a bundle of them out there. jerry
Any listings from the 50s, Al? The escaped female lifers sounds like a better screenplay, Will. Did the November ‘57 story have any photos of the theater, Al? jerry
Here is that ad I mentioned last year. Imagine doing this for 1 DAY!!!
Sorry about the duplicate post above; I received an error message on the first submit. jerry
An ad depicting better times in 1959. Two movies. 11 cartoons, free photo of Edd “Kookie” Byrnes. Throw in a hot dog heated under a light bulb, grape soda right from the machine (make sure the cup comes down straight), bon-bons and I’m there. jerry
Searching all of the NY tImes from the 50s, I see only one mention of The Terrace. Unfortunately, it is this. I can’t imagine this theater showing an “art” film. jerry