Rialto Theatre (2nd)

17 W. 3rd Street,
Tulsa, OK 74103

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Rusty on July 11, 2015 at 10:26 pm

The 1927 book ‘TULSA, CITY BEAUTIFUL’, p-233, has sharp photos of the Rialto auditorium & lobby. Sure looks like a John Eberson design to me; http://cdm15020.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16063coll1/id/1504/

OrpheumDennis on October 2, 2012 at 5:35 pm

I really hope they don’t delete the photo. I think it helps historians clear up some of the mysteries about conflicting addresses. The Rialto name simply moved across the alley when the first Orpheum vacated the building and the new Orpheum opened on 4th Street. The photos should be labeled First Rialto (on the east side of the alley with the name on the marquee) and Second Rialto (on the west side of the alley with the name on the vertical sign). My Wurlitzer pipe organ console from the Orpheum was originally installed in the Rialto in 1923 and I always thought it was in the building on the west side of the alley, the Rialto I remember. Only recently, when I uncovered all of this history, I found out it was originally installed in the FIRST Rialto. The first Rialto was torn down and they built Kress' on that site, of which I have many fond childhood memories.

OrpheumDennis on September 19, 2012 at 1:42 am

That’s correct Kewpie. Across the alley to the west was the first Orpheum, which was originally called the Empress. When the new Orpheum opened on the south side of 4th Street, between Main and Boston, the old Orpheum was renamed the Rialto and the building shown in the post card was torn down. The S. S. Kress store was built on that site. It was an L shaped building, I believe, which wrapped around what later became the Holly Shop on the corner of 3rd and Main. Kress' had entrances on Main Street and 3rd Street.

missmelbatoast on March 29, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Wonderful historic shots on that link, cosmo. The Rialto must have had the very first V shape marquee angled to catch the eye of motorist.

raybradley on March 27, 2011 at 10:09 pm

If you want to see a c1910 shot of the Rialto Theatre then go to below site and type in
“tulsa 3rd street looking east"
View link

OrpheumDennis on September 4, 2010 at 11:08 am

The Wurlitzer Opus 691 was purchased in 1969 by a business associate of Alex Blue, the Orpheum Building’s owner, and moved to the man’s home in Dallas. This happened without the knowledge of Bill Roberts, Dorothy Smith and Phil Judkins, who rebuilt the organ in the early 60s. Several years later, that man bought a larger instrument and the Orpheum organ went to his son’s home in a suburb of Austin. The pipes are still there, but he added a 3 manual console and additional pipes. The two manual console of Opus 691, through an odd chain of events, is sitting in my basement “speakeasy” and screening room in Chicago and will soon play with digital samples. It was the first theatre pipe organ I ever played (when it was still in the Orpheum) and I worked as an usher and assistant manager at the Orpheum (also, occasionally, the Rialto) while I was in college. It’s my understanding that the organ was enlarged with a kinura, clarinet, and salicional celeste in 1924 and was moved to the Orpheum for the theatre’s opening in November of that year. At that time it became a two chamber installation, with chambers on both sides of the proscenium. It had been in only one chamber in the Rialto.

JohnMcConnel on October 18, 2007 at 8:30 pm

According to the opus list in the Wurlitzer Pipe Organ book, Opus 691 was born as a 2/6 “D” Special. On 9/23/1924, three ranks of pipes were added, and it became a 2/9. In 1926, it was moved from the Rialto to the Orpheum.

A 4/11 Robert-Morton was then installed in the Rialto, to give the Rialto an organ with a console comparable to the 4-manual console at the Ritz, which was a competing theatre at that time.

The book doesn’t tell this, but after the Wurlitzer underwent many hours of donated early-morning and late-night maintenance, it was quietly removed from the Orpheum one weekend. It was taken to a home in the Dallas area, where it remains, and is currently playing.

raybradley on June 4, 2007 at 9:14 am

Around 1912 the World Newspaper Building was converted into Tulsa’s first Rialto Theatre. After the World Bldg. was demolished to make way for a high rise Kress five and dime store, Rialto signage was moved next door to rename the Orpheum Theatre. From the Tulsa Library/Beryl Ford Collection comes this 1905 image of the World Bldg -

seymourcox on May 17, 2007 at 5:48 pm

Rialto Theatre shot taken shortly before the building came down -

Architect L. B. Senter must have also designed Palace Office Supply over on Sixth & Boston Ave.
Note similarities between the two structures -

seymourcox on April 9, 2007 at 9:28 am

This view is erroneousely dated 1919, but it had to have been an earlier date than that because the Orpheum Vaudeville Theatre (nee Empress, AKA- Rialto) name was changed to Rialto by 1917. Note the first Rialto just beyond the Orphuem. By 1916 this theatre had been torn down to make way for a high rise Kress.

JohnMcConnel on January 20, 2007 at 6:43 pm

I wonder if Leon Senter did any remodeling work on other Tulsa theatres?

JohnMcConnel on January 20, 2007 at 6:36 pm

Leon Senter’s page on this website:

View link

needs to be updated to include the Rialto work.

Mr. Senter also designed the Tulsa YMCA Building on Denver, around 5th Street, and it’s not listed either. He did buildings in Ponca City, and on the OSU/Stillwater campus that aren’t listed.

I was acquainted with Mr. Senter’s daughter, June Senter Perryman, during the last years of her life. She was proud of his work and talked about many of the projects he did. But she didn’t mention the Rialto. He did a nice job on it.

seymourcox on January 20, 2007 at 5:51 pm

Final Rialto remodel resulted in an exact duplicate of the above mentioned architectural drawing. Refer to old photos on Cinema Tour site for reference.

JohnMcConnel on January 20, 2007 at 5:09 pm

Sharp eye, Seymour! Okie Medley gives credit to Boller Bros. for the Rialto’s 1940’s modernization, although the Rialto drawing he directs us to on the Mayo website is by Leon Senter, as you noted.

Was it built according to Senter’s design? Or could there have been an alternative design by the Bollers that it was built from?

My memory of the facade is mostly limited to the marquee, although I remember fairly clearly the CO2 air conditioning compressor in the basement, with its huge flywheel, which was in service to the end.

On another tangent, I wonder where R. V. McGinnis got the cash to buy the 70mm TODD-AO projectors that he showed “OKLAHOMA!” on? He was the first in Oklahoma to get them, getting them a short while before the State Theatre in Oklahoma City got theirs.

seymourcox on January 20, 2007 at 10:15 am

On Okie Medley’s Feb 07, 2006, 3:51pm Mayo link, after Rialto Theatre architectural drawing is opened, click on it again to pop up a super-sized image. On the lower left corner architectural credit is clearly given to Leon B. Senter.

Okie on August 2, 2006 at 11:17 am

For a long, long while there have been much debate and cofusion over historical truth surrounding Tulsa’s Rialto Theatre. Scholars couldn’t seem to agree on opening dates or even the correct street address. Thanks to aquisition of the Beryl Ford Photograph Collection by Tulsa Rotary Club some of these facts can now be proved.
Evidently, lost to time is knowledge that there were actually two separate theatre structures that sat side by side on W. 3rd St.
On the below link, in the “3rd Street 1909” picture can be seen (last bldg on right) the first Rialto Theatre that opened 1907. During the late 1920s this Rialto was razed to make way for a Kress department store.
Shown in the “3rd Street 1919” image are the first Orpheum Vaudeville (AKA-Empress) built in 1912, and beyond it sits the 1907 Rialto.
This link has a 1923 postcard view that shows the 1907 Rialto,
and in this link can be seen the 1912 Orpheum facade after it was renamed Rialto. Note the nextdoor Kress Bldg built on the former Railto site.

Okie on July 30, 2006 at 7:43 am

Through Tulsa Public Library the Rotary Club presents the Beryl Ford Photograph Collection which traces Tulsa roots from a wild west town to a civilized city. This site constantly changes page and image numbers so you may have to browse around, but as of this writing a clear picture of the Empress (AKA-Orpheum, Rialto) stagehouse can be seen on page 25, image #292,

xxx on July 9, 2006 at 9:49 am

A sad fact is there is a lot of inaccurate Tulsa theatre history reported by sources who should know better and can’t seem to bother with double checking their information. Research in the Tulsa World Newspaper archives would confirm most of these facts!
This house opened 1907 as the Orpheum Theatre, and in 1917 was apparently renamed Empress when the New Orpheum opened on East Fourth Street. Then in 1921 it became known as Rialto and operated under this name till razed in in 1973.

kencmcintyre on May 28, 2006 at 5:01 pm

This site gives the address of the Rialto as 7 West 3rd Street, and states that it opened as the Empress in 1917. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of this information:

Okie on March 19, 2006 at 8:39 am

Recently an old timer told me that Tulsa’s Third Street Orpheum (AKA-Rialto) Theatre was created by famed Chicago Architect Louis Sullivan. This may possibly be true since the original 1907 “form follows function” design was pure Prairie School styling.

Okie on March 19, 2006 at 7:00 am

Documented court records reveal that in 1929 Keith/Albee/Orpheum-RKO sold control of their downtown (1907) Rialto Theatre to Ralph Talbot Theatres.
View link

Okie on March 19, 2006 at 7:00 am

Documented court records reveal that in 1929 Keith/Albee/Orpheum-RKO sold control of their downtown (1907) Rialto Theatre to Ralph Talbot Theatres.
View link

Okie on March 3, 2006 at 7:45 am

1923 picture postcard view of Rialto Theatre;