Rialto Theatre

246 Central Street,
Lowell, MA 01852

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dallasmovietheaters on January 17, 2016 at 5:16 am

The Owl Theatre opened in 1911 and during its run operator Samuel Orbach signed a contract with Paramount Pictures. By decade’s end, the Owl struggled and Orbach blamed Paramount for not getting the films to Lowell in a timely manner. The Owl closed and Orbach sued Paramount in Orbacj v. Paramount in which Orbach was found correct but couldn’t get the damages he sought. So new owners come in and change the theatre to the Rialto.

jimroy on January 31, 2013 at 9:53 am

only what’s visible in this photo http://www.pbase.com/jroy/image/123134944

slavecoma on January 31, 2013 at 9:48 am

i have pictures of the front of the building but have never seen the back of the building that was torn down, does anyone have pics.

hanksykes on May 16, 2012 at 9:04 am

Always love to hear more news of the Rialto Th. in Lowell, does anyone have interior shot of same. I’ve looked for years ,but no luck. I’ll pray and leave the lights on!!!This was my first movie viewing at age 5.

robbieremlap on May 15, 2012 at 5:11 am

When I was a boy in Lowell many years ago, Strand, Rialto and Keith’s were visited often. My father had worked in many of these theaters and also in Lawrence and further as decorator of the lobbies before litho posters were sent around with the films. I projected/tape recorded for Wilson Gill of Washingon D.C. years ago (his father was first theater projectionist in Wash D.C., and he, himself, at one time had been senior sound projectionist for Warner Bros. in Hollywood). I did 16MM arc projection at most major hotels in the capitol, and later, with this experience, was theater projectionist in Chatham on the Cape in early 70s. Had all the equipment from the thirties: Strong Arc, Altec Lansing tube sound (still the most reliable), and RCA-Brenkert heads. Rob Palmer

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 13, 2010 at 10:39 am

The Rialto is listed in the 1927 Film Daily Yearbook as having 1,100 seats and open daily.

hanksykes on July 20, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Thanks Ron Salters, for that great facade shot of the Rialto(where I spent my early childhood film years) under magnification it’s clear that a stepladder has been placed by the marquee to either relamp under canopy lights or to freshen the current film titles which they were showing. Also there seem to be two workers standing next to the ladder.Many happy days spent here in the early 1950’s!

jimroy on April 14, 2010 at 7:32 am

I’ve added one from 1941 couresty Ron Salters

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on August 27, 2008 at 10:22 am

The restoration work on the Rialto building has mostly finished; the long-demolished tower on the front-right corner has been replicated. I have heard that the building has now been sold to the Middlesex Community College, but I’m not sure of that. I’ve seen recent photos and the structure really looks great – a real “landmark”.

Rtprovencher on March 15, 2008 at 11:39 am

The National Park people are hoping for a combination of retail (1st floor) and office space (upstairs). What remains of the Rialto is the head house (entrance only). The theatre itself was located in what was the train shed (i. e. the place where passenger trains were parked to load and unload passengers), which has been torn down. The Rialto was always a second-run, second-class theatre.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on July 25, 2007 at 9:59 am

What will it be used for?

Dave Cushion
Dave Cushion on July 25, 2007 at 9:55 am

The front building of the Rialto used to be the former Boston and Maine Railroad Station. It is currently undergoing renovations. I’ll post photos of it soon.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 8, 2007 at 7:19 am

On page 183 of the new book “A Field Guide to Southern New England Railroad Depots and Freight Houses” by John H. Roy Jr. (Branchline Press), there is a profile of the Rialto building with a small recent photo of the exterior. Author Roy says that the Rialto Theatre dates from 1923. He also mentions that after opening in 1876, the rail station existed for less than 20 years because a short connecting link was built which allowed trains coming up from Salem to use the main Lowell station. The building in the recent photo in the book is definitely the same as the photo in the 1941 MGM Report. But some details have been changed to back-date the building’s facade to its 19th-century appearance.

kencmcintyre on December 25, 2006 at 8:37 am

Merry Christmas to hank and all of the CT family.

hanksykes on December 25, 2006 at 2:03 am

Merry Christmas ken mc, Sorry it took my manners so long to respond. That fire report from 1955 was an eyeopener and something that I was not privy to.Re-visiting Lowell sometime in the late 1980’s, what a shock to see all the downtown cinemas gone, just bulldozed away! Did note the Memorial War Hall still exists and the Park Rangers now patrol the only City that is a State Park in the U.S. I think State Park status falls upon Lowell because of its still remaining Woolen Mills structures and Canal system?

kencmcintyre on November 10, 2006 at 4:20 pm

Here is an article from the Lowell Sun dated 11/5/55:

An investigation by the state fire marshal’s office was ordered today into the general alarm fire which swept through Cantor’s Garage on George street, at Towers' corner area early this morning and completely destroyed two dozen trucks, a number of cars and much merchandise at a loss approximating §300,000. The spectacular blaze which was discovered at l:30 this morning kept every available Lowell fireman battling for two hours, with aid being summoned from four Greater Lowell towns to provide stand-by protection to the city.

The block-long building, which extends from George Street to Central street, with Green and Williams streets on either side, is sub-divided by thick, brick fire walls which were greatly responsible
for preventing much greater property damage, including the gutting of the Rialto theater and the Bissonette showroom with three new model cars on the Central street end.

It was the presence of a fire wall which did extend above the roof that saved the Rialto theater. The theater boiler room in the back of the stage was flooded by water to a depth of several feet and the heating plant was killed. The water also penetrated behind the theater stage and firemen today are pumping out the building.

hanksykes on October 25, 2006 at 1:32 pm

My earlist cinema going has registered an occurance at 5 years of age that I was taken at night in 1947 to the Lowell Rialto Theater where there was a film on screen probably part of a double feature with a full house and balcony . During the intermission the curtains opened and out on stage came a man ,maybe the manager, dressed in a fancy black suit, which I later learned was a tuxedo, since my Dad didn’t own one. Also a lady in an evening gown appeared pushing a huge round bingo ball contraption. They spun the ball around retrieved a globe and called out a number, I know not whether it was a seat or ticket stub digit ,but down the aisle ran an adult to retrieve a bag of groceries from the stage presenter. As a tot this left me totally puzzled , guess it must have been like a dish night that the Rialto Theater ran in connection with a supermarket to encourage it patrons to return in following weeks. Seems to me there was also a grand piano upon the stage so perhaps the Rialto have done vaudeville at one time. In later years my brother and I attended Saturday morning cowboy flix matinees. My Mom always said,“You boys don’t want to see "kissy pictures” at B.F.Keith’s, so go to the Strand or Rialto for cowboy films'“.Those were grand safe days for kids to ride busses from Billerica to Lowell on your own and your parents didn’t have to be concerned. The Woman Manager had her hands full on Saturday mornings with a full house full of 2,000 noisy kids, the screaming audio level must have approached the breaking of the sound level. The projectionist would raise the track level to try to override the kids but it was a loosing race for him. Then the Woman Manager would stride down the main aisle with flashlight , have the film turned off and houselights raised to see who the balcony popcorn and spitball throwers were and then she would scream at the top of her lungs,"Shut up or you’re all going home'”. The house would return to calm for about 10 minutes when slowly the kids would erupt into WW3 again. I knew that when I grewup I never wanted to be a movie theater manager.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on February 2, 2006 at 7:49 am

In recent years there have been short reports about the “Rialto Building” in the newsletter of the Boston & Maine Railroad Historical Society. The railroad station was built in 1876 and was the terminus of a branchline which came into Lowell from the southeast, from Salem. Later, when the station was closed, the theatre was constructed where the tracks and platforms had been, with its entrance through the old station “head-house” on Central Street. The head-house was renovated and its facade changed. Now that the Rialto Theatre is gone, the head-house has been restored to its original 1876 appearance and is now a commercial structure. The MGM Theatre Photograph and Report form for the Rialto has an indistinct photo taken in 1941 which shows that the entrance was in the middle of the block. The Report states that the Rialto has been showing MGM product for 12 years, that it’s over 20 years old, is in Fair condition, and has about 1000 seats, apparently all on one floor. Am I correct in understanding that this building is the last remaining remnant of all the theatres which once stood in Lowell? (not counting the Lowell Memorial Aud.)

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on August 17, 2005 at 11:03 pm

I can confirm the address as 246 Central Street in the 1950 Film Daily Yearbook, seating capacity is given as 1,104.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on August 17, 2005 at 4:16 pm

Is what remains of this building used for anything, or is it sitting vacant?