Rialto Theatre

1481 Broadway,
New York, NY 10036

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Showing 1 - 25 of 30 comments

NYer on May 12, 2018 at 8:50 am

People would flock to a place like this now. Go into the New Amsterdam, Radio City or the King and watch the faces of newbies amazed that places like this exist,let alone were the norm and all over the city. If anyone today had the desire to build from the original plans it would probably be too cost prohibitive and then figure out if there are there anymore of the various marble or plaster artisans anymore.

jordanlage on May 12, 2018 at 7:51 am

@NYer “What were they thinking?” Indeed. The age-old preservationist’s lament, echoed down through history. Living in Manhattan and being one who bows down at the rapidly vanishing glorious cathedrals of live as well as filmed performance, I often find myself traveling through Times Square, and in my mind, ennobling that forsaken wasteland with memories of the ghosts of movie palaces past.

NYer on June 17, 2017 at 7:30 am

Was any reason given for the demolition? What were they thinking?

Joseph Angier
Joseph Angier on June 17, 2017 at 6:42 am

Wow and wow! This theater was not only beautiful, but played host to the premieres of some of our greatest films, including “Freaks.” I love all the pictures and comments on this site

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on March 6, 2017 at 2:34 pm

Here are excerpts from the NY Times review of this house’s last picture, “Werewolf of London”

The Rialto Theatre, which began its career as a picture house on the night of April 22, 1916, by showing Douglas Fairbanks’s “The Good Bad Man,” is bidding farewell to Times Square this week with a nerve-jangling exhibit called “The Werewolf of London.” The theatre will be demolished after the last screening of the picture next Wednesday night, but a new Rialto will be erected on the site and open its doors to the public some time in October.

Designed solely to amaze and horrify, the film goes about its task with commendable thoroughness, sparing no grisly detail… Granting that the central idea has been used before, the picture still rates the attention of action-and-horror enthusiasts. It is a fitting valedictory for the old Rialto, which has become melodrama’s citadel among Times Square’s picture houses.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on April 23, 2015 at 8:01 pm

After this theater was demolished, a new Rialto link was built on this corner and operated as a movie theater from 1935 to 1990 and for many years specialized in two-fisted melodramas and horror movies. Its manager once said his theater, both in styling and presentations, sought to satisfy the “ancient and unquenchable male thirst for mystery, menace and manslaughter.”

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 23, 2015 at 1:22 pm

AlexNYC, it was on the Northwest Corner of 42nd Street and 7th Avenue where Chase Bank is today. ESPN Zone, once east on Broadway, is already gone.

AlexNYC on April 22, 2015 at 7:03 pm

Was the Rialto on the northwest corner of 42nd & Broadway, where the ESPN Zone is today? Due to all the new big buildings in the area, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact address today.

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

robboehm on January 27, 2014 at 9:56 am

Architect is listed in the heading.

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.

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

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

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 27, 2009 at 7:56 am

Opening Next Saturday Noon:

View link

RobertR on August 22, 2008 at 7:23 am

As the house of hits
View link

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on January 1, 2007 at 2:53 pm

>>It is built in the conviction that the American passion for the movies is here to stay.

My favorite line in the Times article. And it was written in 1916!

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 1, 2007 at 1:20 pm

Too beautiful for words. Check out the link while it lasts and look for the Capitol lobby postcard.

View link

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on October 13, 2006 at 8:59 am

Here is a (copyrighted) article from the NY Times when the theater first opened April 21, 1916. I can’t believe this theater lasted less than 20 years. This is the link to the article: View link

RIALTO THEATRE OPENS ITS DOORS; Luxurious Motion Picture House Begins Business in Times Square WITH FAIRBANKS AS STAR

Stageless Theatre, Handsomely Appointed and Seating 2,000, Has Replaced the Old Victoria.

Published: April 22, 1916

The Rialto Theatre, which for nearly a year has been building on the spot in Times Square where Hammerstein’s old Victoria used to stand, opened its doors last evening to a specially invited and very imposing audience. Today and daily hereafter the clamorous public will be admitted, and so another motion picture house has been added to the thousands which dot the map of the United States. But the difference between the queer, jiggly films that used to serve as chasers on the Keith programs fifteen years ago and the elaborate photoplays of 1916 is no greater than the difference between the evilly ventilated little nickelodeons and the luxurious theatre which was opened last night.

A handsomely appointed house dedicated entirely to the movies is thus established on one of the finest theatrical sites in the world. At every turn you found some grounds for the enthusiasm of the laureate of the occasion, who in the program burst forth as follows:

“With the peal of the grand organ, the fanfare of the orchestra, and the flash of thousands of iridescent lights, a new palace of polite pleasure for thousands is born tonight.”

The interior is done in ivory and gray with hangings of red. The dome over the balcony is lovely in coloring, a playground for innumerable lights of every hue. The very ushers are elegantly upholstered, each carrying an electric flash and a swaggerstick. There was some speculation last night as to whether these were to be used for prodding a sleepy patron or for hitting the critics over the knuckles, but a part of the Rialto Review showed the ushers in action. It seems they are trained in first aid work, and the swaggersticks are used in making tourniquets. The Review also transports you to the Rialto in Venice with Nevin’s lovely Venetian music as the appropriate accompaniment.

Like The Strand, which preceded it and has served to some degree as the model for all of the finer motion picture theatres in America, the Rialto is an expression of the taste and ideas of S. L. Rothapfel, its managing director. Here is a goodly auditorium, with seats downstairs and in the steep cantilever balcony to the number of 2,000. Here is a big orchestra, a program that includes some singing and then no end of movies, with two photoplays and a topical review of the sort that shows a Governor dedicating something somewhere and some children doing something somewhere else, and so on.

The Knickerbocker is a fine old theatre temporarily made over into a movie house, and even the Strand is so built that at very short notice it could be converted to the uses of opera or drama, but the Rialto is a motion picture house, pure and simple. It is stageless, the screen being placed boldly against the back wall of the theatre. It is built in the conviction that the American passion for the movies is here to stay.

Triangle films seem to be the central attraction at the Rialto and the opening bill contained an abundance of the Triangle’s trump cardâ€"Douglas Fairbanks. His Wild West, sagebrush photoplay, “The Good Bad Man,” might have been designed by Penrod Schofield with flashes by a sentimental chambermaid, but it is full to the brim with Fairbanks. His expressive face, radiant, toothsome smile, immense activity, and apparent disposition to romp all over the map make him a treasure to the cinema. No deserter from the spoken drama is more engaging in the new work than Douglas Fairbanks. May his shadow never grow less.

foresthillstim on July 20, 2006 at 5:36 pm

What was the name of the movie theatre that was directly across Times Square from the Rialto? Was it the Rialto East? It used to stand where Duane Reade and the Conde Nast building now stands and it used to show double feature porn movies in the late 1970’s.