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The original “Temple of the Motion Picture” and “The Shrine of Music and the Allied Arts”, the Rialto Theatre was built on the site of the former Hammerstein’s Victoria Theatre on the corner of Broadway (Times Square) and W. 42nd Street. The Rialto Theatre was opened on April 21, 1916 with Douglas Fairbanks in “The Good Bad-Man”. Under the personal direction of S. L. Rothapfel (Roxy), the Rialto Theatre show ran five times daily and included the Rialto Orchestra, vocal and instrumental solos, and “accompaniment contributed by the grand organ”.
A December 2, 1917 program announces:
“For the convenience of patrons
Ladies Retiring Rooms on the First and Second Mezzzanine Floors
Gentlemen’s smoking rooms, off the Main Floor and Second Mezzanine
Writing tables and Check Room on the First Mezzanine Floor
Drinking Water on the First and Second Mezzzanine Floors, filtered by the Puro process
Carriage Call on the South Side of the Main Lobby
This theatre, with every seat occupied, can be emptied in less than three minutes".
A Paramount-Artcraft Strauss house, the Rialto featured a weekly film with the bill changing every Sunday.
Next door to the Rialto Theatre and over Child’s Restaurant was the Republic Restaurant.
“The most beautiful and cleanest Chop Suey and Tea Parlor in New York”.
“The Rialto Orchestra, maintained by the Rialto Theatre Corporation, and conceded to be the finest organization in existence devoted to motion pictures, enjoys through special arrangement with the Carl Fisher Company, access to and the use of the largest and most comprehensive musical library in America.”
The Rialto Theatre was taken over by Paramount/Famous Players in 1919. It was closed in May 1935 with Henry Hull in “The Werewolf of London” and was immediately demolished.
A new Rialto Theatre on a smaller scale (700-seats) was constructed in an Art Deco style. This theatre was on the same site of the now closed & demolished Cineplex Odeon Warner Theatre, which is listed on Cinema Treasures as the Rialto Theatre. Hammerstein’s Victoria Theatre also has its own Cinema Treasures page.
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