Rialto Theatre

50 Scollay Square,
Boston, MA 02108

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 21, 2012 at 4:04 am

This article in the December, 1910, issue of the trade journal The Nickelodeon says that the Star Theatre opened on November 1, 1907. The auditorium originally seated 453, and boasted an early example of indirect lighting.

MarkB on March 21, 2012 at 9:31 pm

This photo comes from the book Boston in Motion,from the Images of America series. The camera is at Hanover and Court sts. looking across and down the square. It’s dated Nov. 28, 1912. I believe you can see the Theatre Comique just up the street – note the arch on the front of the building. To answer the puzzle above – it says “Admission 10 (cents sign).” http://i1080.photobucket.com/albums/j324/MarkBul/hanoverandcourtsts.jpg

MarkB on November 15, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Star Theatre location, 1917. Notice that the Peter Bent Brigham hospital owned the building. http://i1080.photobucket.com/albums/j324/MarkBul/startheatre1917.jpg

EdwardFindlay on May 10, 2011 at 7:41 pm

Since Mr. Salters mentioned Fred Allen…a shot from that timeframe from the Bostonian Society’s collection View link

EdwardFindlay on April 27, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Another shot from the 50s this time head on of the facade: View link

EdwardFindlay on April 27, 2011 at 6:17 pm

A shot from the mid 50s: View link

EdwardFindlay on April 22, 2011 at 11:04 pm

A shot of the facade that was recreated for the movie “The Brinks Job”

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 16, 2011 at 1:02 pm

When it was the Star Theatre in 1913-14, the comedian Fred Allen appeared there in small-time vaudeville, according to his autobiography. I always assumed that it offered only film entertainment.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on October 5, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Note the movie playing “Criminals Within” – that sums up what one would have found circa-1946 among the patronage inside this dumpy movie house.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 12, 2008 at 12:47 pm

Lost’s photo dates to about 1911 or 12. Note just to the right of the Star/Rialto is the Austin & Stone’s Museum which has “Auction” signs on it. It was demolished and the Scollay Square Olympia Theatre was built on its site. I agree that the original addresses on Tremont Row and Scollay Square are obsolete today and would not “google”.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on November 12, 2008 at 11:14 am

And yes, that photo is the same Star Theatre. I don’t remember whether I saw that photo before in a book or online, but it’s the same theatre. Changing the address to “5 Tremont Row” would not help Google Maps, since Tremont Row is another discontinued street.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on November 12, 2008 at 11:12 am

Scollay Square doesn’t exist anymore as a street address, and the street layout in that area has been changed so much (by the project that demolished the Rialto) that it doesn’t make sense to replace it with a current address.

kencmcintyre on February 12, 2007 at 4:18 pm

This article from the Harvard Crimson is dated 9/12/51:

kencmcintyre on November 4, 2006 at 5:55 pm

Here is an article from the Cedar Rapids Gazette dated 4/15/62:

End Nears for Boston’s Historic Scollay Square

Proper Boston is standing death watch over an aged and roguish black sheep relative. Brazen Scollay Square, long the stamping grounds of millions of seamen and servicemen, is breathing its last raspy breaths as a rowdy oasis in the midst of puritan virtue.

Soon the burlesque theaters, the cafes and their come-on
girls, the tattoo studios, the penny arcade, the hamburger joints will be reduced to nostalgic rubble and carted away. In their places will rise a stately and respectableâ€"but far less interestingâ€"
government center, housing federal, state, county and city offices with approaches of flowers and tree-lined malls…

Also coming down is the Rialto Theater, the only all-night movie house in Boston, where sleepy-eyed patrons were ousted for for two hours each dawn so the place could be swept and aired out.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on February 19, 2006 at 4:00 am

The Star Theatre is visible near the top of this 1928 map, on Scollay Square next door to the much larger Olympia.

(warning to dialup users: the map is big and will take a long time to load)

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on January 13, 2006 at 9:13 am

Yes, it definitely appears to be operating in this July 1961 view, check out the poster case and the ticket window. Note also how the building has been truncated down to one floor. This confirms my memory that the Rialto was open almost until demolition.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on January 8, 2006 at 10:50 am

In this 1961 photo (described here), the Rialto appears to still be open despite being partially demolished!

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on December 3, 2005 at 9:13 am

Your definition of “Scratch House” is a good one ! But my understanding is that it means that the clientele are full of fleas, so they have to scratch themselves. Of course, if the film stock is all scratched up, but the audience is asleep, then it doesn’t matter how bad the image on the screen is ! Donald King, circa 1938, while on his way home from working at the National Th., got stopped by a blizzard, and actually spent the night in the Rialto ! I never had the courage to go into it, day or night, although I went into the Stuart Th., a similar house, several times.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on December 2, 2005 at 10:12 am

I wonder if it also means “a house with a clientele so undemanding that it doesn’t matter how badly the prints are scratched”.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on December 2, 2005 at 10:10 am

Some more details about the Rialto. As the Star Th., it opened in November 1907, and was designed by F. Norcross. “Scratch House” is a movie industry term meaning a last-run cinema, often open all night, with a low admission, which attracts “transients”, a polite word for “bums” . In England they called these cinemas “Flea Pits”.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on December 2, 2005 at 10:03 am

The MGM Theatre Photo and Report for the Rialto has a photo dated April 1941, with the arch above the marquee filled with a sign which proclaims in big letters “Open All Night, 2 Features, 10 cents”. The movies on the 3 lines of the marquee are: “In Old Cheyenne” with Roy Rogers, “The Watchman Takes a Wife” and “TheSky Raiders”. The REport states that the Rialto is not a MGM customer, was built around 1905, is in Poor condition, and has 365 seats, all on one floor.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on December 1, 2005 at 9:53 am

The Rialto remained open longer than the adjacent Scollay Square Theatre did. I think it was open right through the 1950s and maybe into the 1960s, but I’m not sure of that. I never went into it. At some point the upper part of the facade was removed, that is, in its more recent pictures, the facade does not extend as high as in vintage photos. A few doors down the street to the south there was another similar early movie theatre, the Comique. Both of these houses can be seen in the various old photos of Scollay Sq. The Rialto was demolished in the mass destruction of the area in Spring 1962.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on June 21, 2005 at 5:44 am

According to Donald C. King’s new book The Theatres of Boston: A Stage and Screen History, the Star Theatre opened in November 1907.

King describes the Rialto Theatre of the 1940s: “It was open all night, showed last-run movies, was cheap and was a smelly ‘crap can,’ as the industry called such houses….The Rialto had a stench that was indescribable. It ran the very last run of films, and half or perhaps more of the audience was asleep. I think the theatre only closed in the morning just long enough to clean.”

He says that it was demolished in mid-1962.

cuig on April 11, 2005 at 2:28 pm

Ron…You could get into the theatre for ten cents admission. If you wanted to sit, it didn’t cost anymore in contrast to theatres where standing was one price and sitting another.