Rialto Theatre

1481 Broadway,
New York, NY 10036

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Showing 126 - 150 of 155 comments

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on August 1, 2005 at 12:33 am

This image from the NYPL archives shows the original Rialto in preparation for demolition. I’ve added light to bring out some of the details:
www.i8.photobucket.com/albums/a18/Warrengwhiz/rialto.jpg

RobertR
RobertR on June 23, 2005 at 6:06 am

This is the film I was talking about

View link

RobertR
RobertR on June 20, 2005 at 10:38 am

In April 1953 when Bwana Devil was playing at Loew’s State something called “Triorama 3 Dimension” released by Panorama films was playing here. The ad had a scantily clad beauty on a trapeze flying out of the screen over the audience. Anyone know what this was?

RobertR
RobertR on June 20, 2005 at 10:35 am

This should at least be cross referenced as the Warner, which was it’s last name.

br91975
br91975 on April 1, 2005 at 9:36 am

The Rialto Theatre/Cineplex Odeon Warner closed its doors for business not long before or during the summer of ‘91.

hardbop
hardbop on April 1, 2005 at 9:17 am

I remember when this theatre reopened and moved the entrance from “The Deuce” to Broadway. The only film I caught there was “A Fish Called Wanda.” Cineplex Odeon renovated it, but I don’t think it was open for very long after it reopened. Like I said, I only went there once and barely remember it being open.

42ndStreetMemories
42ndStreetMemories on March 25, 2005 at 11:27 am

There is a great example of the exotic programming, and a beautiful shot of the Rialto, in Ken Bloom’s BROADWAY: AN ENCYCLOPEDIA. Next to the theater entrance is Diamond Jim’s bar. The high windows, mentioned earlier, are visible as is the bottom of a large display for Samson and Delilah. The marquee reads:

Technicolor Hit Show
Wild Animal Thriller
SAVAGE SPLENDOR
Actual JUNGLE film
plus MIGHTY MANHATTAN (two reeler according to imdb)

It was programming like this that kept me around the corner on 42nd. BTW all of the films mentioned are from 1949. Jerry

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 2, 2005 at 8:21 am

The photo accompanying the introduction shows the first Rialto Theatre and not the second Rialto Theatre described in the text. The second Rialto, built on the site of the demolished first Rialto, had Rosario Candela as architect, with the firm of Thomas W. Lamb as consultant. It first opened on Christmas Day, 1935, with Frank Buck’s jungle documentary, “Fang and Claw.” Publicity said that the new Rialto would be “a man’s theatre,” playing primarily adventure, action, mystery, and melodrama. The theatre had no balcony, but smoking was permitted in the two side sections of the auditorium, which seated 700 in total. The walls were covered with terra-cotta silk, brocaded in dull gold. The ceiling was painted a deep blue over the center section of seats, and had lighting coves in terra- cotta, trimmed with aluminum, over the two side sections. In a corner of the entrance foyer, a staircase connected to the shopping arcade of the Times Square-42nd Street subway station. The initial price scale was 25 cents before noon, 40 cents to 5PM, and 65 cents to closing time. As the Rialto’s bookings became more focused on murder, mystery and monsters, managing director Arthur Mayer became known as “The Merchant of Menace.” By the end of the year, The New York Times was commenting that “Like a flower of evil, the new Rialto Theatre has endeared itself to a little coterie of necrophiles that haunt the area as a perfect rendezvous for Witches' Sabbats and Walpurgis Eve celebrations.”

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 10, 2005 at 6:27 am

The Elysee was at 202 West 58th Street, just steps from Seventh Avenue (there’s still an apartment building at #200), and started out as the John Golden Theatre. In its final years, it was known as ABC’s Studio TV 15. “The Dick Cavett Show” may have been the last tenant. I had the great privilege of attending his interview with one of my idols, Fred Astaire. Demolition started in the autumn of 1985 and took several months, with much dynamiting when they reached ground level and began excavations for the choir school that replaced the theatre.

DonRosen
DonRosen on February 9, 2005 at 3:08 pm

The Merv Griffin Show was taped at the Cort Theatre.

As The Warner, Cineplex Odeon tried to relive the glory days when they brought in “Lawrence of Arabia” to the renamed Rialto.

Was the Rialto West the 600 seat Rialto and the Rialto II the basement 300 seater?

DougDouglass
DougDouglass on January 29, 2005 at 11:27 am

Benjamin, If you’d like information on programs originating from each theatre I mentioned contact me directly.

Benjamin
Benjamin on January 29, 2005 at 11:07 am

DougDouglass: Terrific info, thanks!

I’m familiar with some of these theaters (at least the names, since many are mentioned in the Henderson book), but am not sure about some of the others (especially with the way the names of theaters are changed so often).

Elysee: This theater sounds familiar, I even think I remember hearing “Live from the Elysee Theater” — but I can’t place it. I wonder if this was the theater on W. 58th that used to be used for Dick Clark’s “Pyramid” game show (which I never saw)?

Never heard of a few of the CBS theaters: Lincoln Sq., Monroe, Peace, Town.

A particularly exciting excursion into “the city” that I remember from my childhood was being driven by the Colonial when they were doing the “Price is Right” from there. I remember you could see a house trailer (one of the prizes) parked out front. And it seemed so amazing to me that this was the outside of the same place that I could see on my TV in Astoria!

I wonder if there is a particularly good source for this kind of info, if one wanted to look up what shows, in particular, were done from what theaters? Most of the things I’ve seen are written by authors who are not particularly interested in this info.

I think it’s really amazing to think of all the stuff that was happening in (mostly) mid-Manhattan in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, etc. The regular movie theaters, the first run movie theaters, the movie “palaces” with live shows (including famous singers, comedians and big bands), the Broadway shows, the nightclubs and hotel ballrooms and dance halls, Madison Sq. Garden, the recording studios A N D the nationally broadcast live radio and TV shows emanating from Manhattan theaters and studios (including one of the first big hit shows on radio — with “Roxy” Rothapfel — emanating from the Capitol Theater)! (The radio show with Roxy is described in Hall’s, “Best Remaining Seats.”)

DougDouglass
DougDouglass on January 29, 2005 at 10:40 am

Movie and legit theatres used for radio and television:

ABC: Colonial, Elysee.

CBS: Avon, Biltmore, Gallo, Hammerstein’s, Lincoln Square, Mansfield, Maxine Elliot, Monroe, Peace, RKO 81st Street, Town.

DuMont: Adelphi, Ambassador.

NBC: Center, Century, International, New Amsterdam, Ziegfeld.

Benjamin
Benjamin on January 29, 2005 at 9:50 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?)

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on January 29, 2005 at 6:47 am

The TV studios at the Rialto location were in an adjoining office building, but separate from the theatre. I don’t think that that the Rialto itself was ever a TV studio…The current Letterman home was originally Hammerstein’s Theatre, built in 1927 by producer Arthur Hammerstein in memory of his father, the legendary Oscar Hammerstein. Herbert J. Krapp was the architect…There was a fairly large number of Manhattan theatres that served as TV studios at one time or another, not all of them in the Broadway-Times Square area.

Benjamin
Benjamin on January 29, 2005 at 6:44 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 6:28 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 10:30 am

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 4:30 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 10:21 am

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

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on August 30, 2004 at 9:48 am

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 9:31 am

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 2:12 pm

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

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 6, 2004 at 11:49 am

There were actually two Rialtos. The first one, built on the site of the demolished Hammerstein’s Victoria Theatre, opened on April 21, 1916, and is the Rialto shown above in the color postcard. This Rialto was demolished around 1932 and replaced by a much-smaller Rialto that was part of an office building. For quite a few years, the second Rialto was managed by Arthur Mayer, who made it a legendary showcase for horror and gangster movies. His exploits were described in his memoir, “Merely Colossal,” which is well worth reading.

wrauffer
wrauffer on February 25, 2004 at 3:16 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.