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Looking for photos of the Rialto and/or its connection to Route 66. The Chamber is applying for grant funding to help refurb the original blade sign, which is undergoing stabilization and structural repairs right now. Route 66 – the original alignment – passed the Rialto. Anyone with stories or photos to help connect the two, please email
The console was purchased and returned to the City by Mark and Marinel Robinson. It can be seen at the Meridian Iron Works Museum at the Farmers' Market on Thursday’s, 4 to 8pm. Docent Bill Hilliard talks it up and shows it off. I do not know where the other pieces and parts are.
lwmulder, check out www.RialtoSouthPasadena.com to see a picture of ol' grandad! As you find info on him, if any pertains to the Rialto, please drop a line to the South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce.
Thanks, Joe. Great stuff. Oops on the Raymond opening date! That means my earlier comment on Langley building the Raymond is also off. I’ll be more careful.
Regarding the showman Langley, here are some more clues. Perhaps someone will take up your challenge on writing the West Coast Theatres story …
A Pasadena Post story on April 5, 1924 headlined “NEW POLICY STARTED AT RAYMOND” has the subhead “Theater Opens With Great Vaudeville Bill Today and Feature Film.” It states: “… today the theater came under the management of [Ralph] Allan, who has had charge of the Pasadena Egyptian theater for some months.”
There was also a story in The Post on Friday, April 4, 1924 with the headline “THEATRES IN MERGER; PLAN NEW HOUSES” that highlights plans for two new theaters on “Colorado Street” by Lake Ave. and East Washington. It reports that two large theater corporations are being consolidated and planning an expenditure of over $1,000,000 on two sites in Pasadena. This was announced by Sol Lesser, vice president of the West Coast Theatres, Inc. The paper states that together with Southwest Theatres Inc., the Greater Pasadena Theatres Company will be formed with C. L. Langley, president of Southwest Theaters as manager and Sol Lesser as Secretary. It also says the combined companies operate 122 theaters in Southern California and their consolidation combined the interests of the Raymond, Pasadena, Egyptian, Strand and Florence Theatres. It closes with: “They have franchises on the Famous Players, Lasky, Principal Pictures corporation, Metro and Goldwyn pictures.”
Six months later, a pairing of operators made a deal with a South Pasadena banker and his wife to build the Rialto on their land. And these were not Langley & Lesser, but Langley & Gore. The original lease for the Rialto, dated September 23, 1924 is between lessors Clyde M. and Isabelle M. Church, and lessees West Coast Theatres, Inc. and C. L. Langley Inc. Apparently Langley was operating a separate organization as well as the one he just merged into, because on Wednesday, one day after this agreement, a story and photo ran in the Pasadena Evening Post, captioned: “C. L. Langley – Who Invites the People of Pasadena to Be His Guests at the Raymond Theater Thursday Evening.” The lease for the Rialto was executed by M. Gore, President, West Coast Theatres, Inc., attested to by A. L. Gore, Secretary and for C. L. Langley Inc. by C. L. Langley, President, with C.E. Kells, Secretary.
The Rialto plans changed quite a bit in this three-month period. There is an August advertisement of a $350,000 theatre, store and apartment building, with the theatre seating 1,600, then an early October solicitation for contractors to build it with 1,800 seats and a Class “A” stage, plus four stores and several apartments; $150,000. By October 22nd the South Pasadena local newspaper reports that the permit was approved for a $110,000 structure as “one of the largest single sums ever registered in the city.” It also states that the building will be “of Buddhist design”. Finally, a story in the Federated News one year later, prior to opening night, reveals 800 seats on the ground floor with a 400-seat balcony.
Although too long for this post, there’s an interesting competitive race in the building of yet another major theater, announced the same week in April 1924 – Bard’s Alexandria at Colorado and Catalina.
Do you have a Rialto story to tell? We’re creating a local video history of the theatre, and looking for you! Email
There are a few updates to the information pool on the Rialto, South Pasadena. The site RialtoSouthPasadena.com has news and links. Also, SouthPasadena.Patch.com posted an excellent story and video by Laurie Allee in May, 2011. Finally, if you search YouTube for “Rialto South Pasadena” you’ll find the Miranda Gontz mini-documentary, which I also posted here in the video section.
Thanks Howard Haas for updating the intro to credit C.L.Langley as the showman who built it, not his competitor Bard. Langley also operated the Raymond, which opened one month prior to the Rialto, and provided the organist Roy Metcalfe for the premiere. For more arcane information on the Rialto, and some updates, visit www.RialtoSouthPasadena.com
There are errors in this website. It’s a terrific resource – so it’s tough to criticize. Just treat it like the blog that it is. See my posts above – the theatre was not built by Lou Bard, and now, as your photo shows, the Bard’s that the Rialto is not based on is also not demolished!
The Intro to this page suggests that the Rialto was built by showman Lou Bard. Yet the research I’ve found suggests that the Rialto was built by C.L. Langley, a competitor to Bard.
The property owner who signed the deal with Langley was Clyde S. Church, a prominent banker and South Pas resident. Church apparently lost or sold the building to Dominick Jebbia in the 1930’s in a settlement of his father’s estate. Jebbia was known as The Banana King – a very successful fruit importer/distributer who lived on Huntington Drive where the credit union is now, and later in Monterey Park. Jebbia famously purchased the Midwick Country Club for cash during the depression, beating out the polo set who had played there and now hoped to own it. It later burned, and since has been developed as a residential area.
Langley also built and operated the Alex [Glendale] and The Raymond [Pasadena]. He sold out to West Coast Theatres, which became Fox West Coast, the largest theatre chain in the U.S., which ultimately collapsed under it’s own weight. I’d like to know more about the apparent rivalry between Bard and Langley, and the competition for theatres in the area. The Alex, The Rialto and Bard’s Egyptian all opened within months of each other in 1925. Theatre mania! If anyone has info and wants to contact me, go to SouthPasChamber.com and email me through the contact page.
For Rialto fans serious about finding a solution to revitalizing the Rialto Theatre, there’s a comprehensive report downloadable on the South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce website. That’s www.southpaschamber.com The report was published February 17, 2009 after a lengthy study process by an ad hoc committee of the Chamber. Much of the research was guided by posts from members of this site – CinemaTreasures.org. The report does not propose a single solution, but does reveal options. The Appendix compiles “success stories” from other theatres and attempts to paint the picture of how other communities have succeeded in the improbable. At this point some of the immediate circumstances have changed – downtown development is stalled, a recession upon us, and so on. But much of the report remains informative and accurate.