Rialto Theatre

1501 Douglas Street,
Omaha, NE 68102

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 10, 2016 at 6:04 pm

The Rhapsodic commentary on the opening of the Rialto that appeared in the June 22, 1918, issue of Motography is worth quoting in full:

“New $750,000 Theatre Opened at Omaha

“A. H. Blank and Associates Give Pictures a
Home That Has Few Equals in the Country

“THE Rialto Theatre of Omaha, Nebraska, built at a cost of $750,000, was recently opened to the public.

“It is one of the most beautiful playhouses devoted to pictures in America. The exterior was designed by John Latenser, Jr., and the interior by Frank Latenser, two Omaha architects. The structure is a composite of Venetian renaissance with modern adaptations. The building is 132x132 in dimensions. The dominant tones of the exterior trimming are of old ivory and blue terra cotta, with panels of tapestry brick in soft tones.

“The interior gives the spectator the effect of overlooking an Italian formal garden. Mural paintings form a per-> spective in which Lombardy poplars and ornamental shrubs lead the eye away to far-off mountains. There are marble balustrades and balconies with alcoves containing cleverly lighted fountains.

“The house is flooded with light from concealed electric globes and many beautiful color effects are gained.

“The seating arrangement is in keeping with the perfection of the house. The seats in the pit are so located that a perfect view of the screen is given from any part of the floor. There are no columns or pillars to obstruct the view.

“The draperies of the curtain and screen are of old rose silk velour, and all of the carpets are of soft-toned gray. Usherettes are costumed in gray, in keeping with the color scheme.

“The ventilation and heating system is the best obtainable. The washed air system is used and the air is entirely changed in the theatre ten times in an hour.

“One of the largest organs in the world has been installed. A prominent musician, Kenneth Widenor, is the organist. The orchestra is under the direction of Harry Silverman.

“The Rialto is essentially an Omaha institution, owned by Charles Grotte, Walter Brandes, John Latenser, Sr., and A. H. Blank.

“The opening play was John Barrymore in ‘Raffles.’ Paramount and Fox standard pictures are shown.”

Of interest are the revelations that the interior was designed by Frank J. Latenser in “…a composite of Venetian renaissance with modern adaptations.” The “modern adaptations” must have referred to such things as the art nouveau lighting fixtures I noted in an earlier comment.

The firm of John Latenser & Sons was formed in 1914 when John L. Latenser, who had practiced architecture in Omaha since 1885, established a partnership with his sons, who thereupon took over most of the work. On the Rialto project, John Jr. designed the exterior and acted as structural engineer and supervising architect. The Rialto was the first of five theater projects designed by the firm, including a 1954 remodeling of the Orpheum.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on November 11, 2016 at 10:54 am

1/16/37 photo & copy added courtesy of Charles Martens.

“Opening of the Burlington Bus Depot at the corner of 15th and Douglas Streets. 1-16-1937”

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on November 11, 2016 at 10:43 am

1961 photo of the former Rialto as Tully’s added, courtesy of Steve Raglin. There is a second photo of Cooper’s Cinerama next door as well. Maybe some one with photo editing skills can combine the two.

Shehan13644
Shehan13644 on April 4, 2016 at 7:36 pm

I am very interested in the history of the Rialto in Omaha. Does anyone have historic items, programs, or photographs of it that you might be interested in selling?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 15, 2012 at 12:26 pm

There is a photo depicting part of the lobby of either the Rialto Theatre or the Orpheum Theatre in Omaha, published in 1926 in a trade journal for the marble industry called Through the Ages. The magazine used the same photo twice, one caption identifying it as the Rialto and the other as the Orpheum. This is the photo, as scanned and displayed by the web site Quarries and Beyond, which has copyrighted the scan (so don’t upload it to the photos section here.)

I think the photo probably depicts the Rialto, though. The lighting fixtures have an Art Nouveau look, which doesn’t match the French Renaissance style of the Orpheum (1926) but might well have been used in the older Rialto (1918.)

rivest266
rivest266 on December 4, 2011 at 8:00 am

This opened on May 29th, 1918 by A. H. Blank. I have posted the grand opening ad here.

WAJWAJ
WAJWAJ on December 2, 2005 at 7:46 pm

Several architectural elements from the Rialto Theatre, as seen in the photo from beardbear31 on 30 Sep 2004, can be found at Lanoha’s Nursery in Omaha.

beardbear31
beardbear31 on September 30, 2004 at 5:18 pm

A vintage view of the Rialto theater can be found at http://www.historicomaha.com/cp4.jpg

IvanSteinke
IvanSteinke on December 11, 2002 at 5:49 am

The Rialto Theater sat on the northeast corner of 15th and Douglas, where the Union Pacific office building is now being constructed.

If you want to find pictures of this building, from either side, the place to go is to the archival photography department at the Durham Western Heritage Museum in Omaha. They have over 21,000 pictures of Old Omaha, including the Rialto Theater. I know, because I have seen them.

psteuert
psteuert on April 30, 2002 at 5:52 pm

Is this building at 14th and Douglas St.? Does anyone know where I could find a photo of the Douglas St side of the building? There used to be a diner there;and I am looking for a photo of the outside of it.