Rialto Theatre

1481 Broadway,
New York, NY 10036

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Rialto Theatre

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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”.

It was closed and demolished in 1935 and a new Rialto Theatre on a smaller scale was constructed in an Art Deco style. This theatre was on the same site of the now closed Cineplex Odeon Warner, also listed as Rialto Theatre on Cinema Treasures.

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.”

I now leave it to other far more worthy contributors than myself to fill in the gaps for this historic site.

Contributed by Al Alvarez

Recent comments (view all 22 comments)

deleted user
[Deleted] on September 4, 2009 at 10:01 am

Here’s an ad for the original Rialto’s final booking, a Universal horror that opened on May 9th, 1935, and ran for one week. Demolition started on May 16th, and a new but much smaller Rialto would open on Christmas Day with the Frank Buck documentary feature, “Fang and Claw.” Arthur L. Mayer, who’d been managing director of the original Rialto in its final years, would also run the New Rialto and continue his policy of exploitation films with “masculine appeal”:
View link

LouisRugani on March 28, 2010 at 9:43 am

A closeup of the 1947 RIALTO marquee is seen in the David O. Selznick production of “Portrait of Jennie”, and the Rialto is referenced in the plot.

JAlex on April 6, 2010 at 1:20 pm

An item appearing in Billboard on 9/15/1916 with the headline “It Fooled Rathapfel”:

When Sam Rothapfel got back on the job at the Rialto recently, after a five-day trip, he thought for a moment that some one had slipped a new pipe organ into his theatre. Anything the organ had ever done sounded almost half hearted compared with what it was doing now. Then he remembered that the original scenic background had been ripped out and replaced by a set of transparencies. The plaster had cut off the sound from several groups of pipes, and when it was removed the organ preceded to let out a roar of relief that shook the auditorium.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on May 1, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Thanks Tinseltoes,Bela Lugosi was the Man of Horror in those days of real Horror movies,not this trash they peddle today for Horror.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on April 13, 2012 at 6:58 pm

I added two of Warren’s really nice photos to the photo section before the links are lost.

Bruce Calvert
Bruce Calvert on November 4, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Here is a Rialto Theatre program from July 27, 1919. Dorothy Gish’s NUGGET NELL (1919) was the main feature, and 10% of the ticket price went to the government for a war tax.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on November 5, 2012 at 12:28 am

I can’t believe this theater lasted less than 20 years.

CharmaineZoe on January 26, 2014 at 8:36 am

Don’t know if anyone has mentioned it but the architect for the 1916 theatre was Thomas W Lamb.

robboehm on January 27, 2014 at 9:56 am

Architect is listed in the heading.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on February 12, 2014 at 9:19 am

His name is listed in the side bar under Additional Info — Architects: Thomas W. Lamb

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