Rialto Theatre

1525 Elm Street,
Dallas, TX 75201

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CharmaineZoe on February 2, 2014 at 9:13 pm

According to the Motography magazine for June 30th,1917 the Old Mill was destroyed by fire in February of that year, rebuilt and reopened later that year, with seating for 1,500, rich decorations, a vacuum fan system in the basement, a canary bird chorus and restrooms for ladies and gentlemen. All under the management of E H Hulsey.

dallasmovietheaters on November 14, 2013 at 5:35 pm

The original Rialto Theater was located at 410 N. Bishop in Oak Cliff and it opened as part of the Ed Foy Neighborhood Theatres circuit in 1919. After a second renaming, it became the Astor Theater in 1934. Dallas didn’t go for long without a Rialto though and this entry is for the Old Mill Theater which opened June 24, 1913 for the Southern Enterprise Circuit. The Old Mill had giant fans at the front which was its cooling system and the theater was architected by I.A. Walker with 1,874 seats.

On October 25, 1928 the Old Mill finally installed a sound system choosing Vitaphone and Movietone. It narrowly beat the Capitol by one month as the last regular major downtown movie theater to install sound. The Mill’s first soundie was “Midnight Taxi” using Vitaphone.

In 1933, Interstate took over much of the Southern Enterprise circuit ultimately adding the Old Mill to its portfolio. Interstate decided to spend $42,000 to modernize the Old Mill. It would keep the walls of the theater and rebuild a new theater and front. The final picture to play the Old Mill was on May 4th, 1935 with “The Florentine Dagger.” That was followed by a five-month rebuilding project.

On Sept. 14, 1935, the theater opened as The Rialto with “Annapolis Farewell”. La Roche & Dahl architected the modernistic streamlined look which was a marked departure from the Old Mill predecessor. Live radio coverage by WRR radio and a special appearance by actor James Dunn along with fireworks added to the festivities. RCA Photophone equipment and 1,500 new U-16 floating comfort theater chairs helped give the feel of a brand new theater. The programming was lesser run films and second-run fare.

Louis Novy’s Trans-Texas Theaters took on the Rialto and Capitol as part of the second phase of Interstate divestitures in the Paramount consent decree in 1953. They would also get the Varsity and Melba. Trans-Texas took over operations and closed the theater to install improved projection, sound, and a VistaVision screen. 1,500 new seats, new decor showed Trans-Texas' faith in the Rialto. It was positioned as a first-run theater after the Melba was dedicated to Cinerama for the immediate future. Its first program as the “new” Rialto was June 10, 1954 with “The Mad Magician” in 3-D. But the first run model wouldn’t last even to the end of the decade as Trans-Texas gave up the Rialto. By decade’s end two more new operators tried to revive the five-decade old theater. They tried second-run double-bills to no avail as the theater staggered to its final closure.

The Rialto lasted until March 23, 1959 before closing its doors. The final films played-a double feature of “Unwed Mother” and “Joy Ride.” The closure was rather quiet for a 45-plus year old fixture on theater row. The Rialto was scheduled for demolition along with the Capitol for a parking lot in 1959. But on May 20, 1959, the theater was engulfed in a major fire. The charred remains were removed. The Capitol was bulldozed and the next theater to go was the Strand early in 1960.

Tinseltoes on August 14, 2012 at 5:20 pm

Described as Old Mill in this 1915 trade article: archive

DonLewis on September 14, 2010 at 6:39 am

From the 1930s a postcard view of the Rialto Theatre on Theater Row in Dallas.

kencmcintyre on January 3, 2010 at 1:06 am

The Old Mill is discussed in this 1915 edition of Moving Picture World:

DonLewis on November 27, 2009 at 2:08 am

From 1933, a post card view of the original Old Mill Theatre before it became the Rialto. Also visible are the Mirror, Capitol and Palace.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on July 8, 2009 at 3:03 am

Here is an article about the Old Mill Theater from The Moving Picture World July 1915:

“THE OLD MILL theater, Dallas, Texas, was erected by Dalton Brothers and Bible during the fall of 1913, and was opened October 15 of the same year. The idea of naming it the "Old Mill” was originated by the architect, I. A. Walker, on account of two large exhaust fans used in the front, giving it an “Old Dutch” appearance. The house seats 890 on the main floor, with additional 48 chairs in the boxes on the main floor; the balcony seats 936 and two tiers of boxes on the sides, brings the total seating capacity to 1924. The chairs used on the main floor have what is sometimes called an “air cushion” seat, the trade-name being “squab-spring” seat, which is very comfortable. It is said these chairs cost over $8.00 each installed. When the house was first opened, a light musical comedy was used for some six or eight weeks, being succeeded by Pantages vaudeville. This circuit’s acts brought very good business to the house until the Garden, Majestic and Orpheum put on vaudeville, and the city could not support so much vaudeville.

During last fall, motion pictures were installed in the Old Mill, and some few weeks after making it a picture house. Dalton Bros. & Bible leased the house to E. H. Hulsey, then owner of the Queen theaters at Dallas, Galveston and Houston. The same day this announcement was made, another deal was consummated whereby the Feature theater, formerly the Orpheum, under complete remodeling, was sold by Dalton Bros. & Bible to the Jorgenson Brothers.

As soon as Mr. Hulsey took over the house, a complete change of the program being used was made. Then Mr. Hulsey started making improvements, the first being an expenditure of several hundred dollars for artistic scenery on the stage, and an electrical fountain. One of the latest improvements is the Wurlitzer Hope-Jones Unit orchestra, said to have cost $15,000. The Old Mill is now running Paramount. V-L-S-E, Griffith features, and features of the General Film Company.

Mr. Hulsey, the lessee of the Old Mill, has just recently added to his string of houses, the Newport, a small house next door to his Queen theater in Dallas, both of which are in the same block with the Old Mill. He also operates the Hippodrome at Waco, in addition to the Queen at Houston and Queen at Galveston. Mr. Hulsey has introduced many novel advertising methods in Dallas for the Queen and Old Mill. One of his recent “stunts” advertising Kleine’s “Woman Who Dared” at the Old Mill was an open carriage, driven by a uniformed driver, with a beautiful woman in the back seat, who had her eyes covered with a domino mask, parading the principal streets of the city".

DonLewis on March 15, 2009 at 8:16 pm

An old movie theater ad from 1949 for the Rialto Theatre.

DonLewis on March 10, 2009 at 4:57 am

Vintage postcard views of the Rialto Theatre here and here.

philbertgray on November 7, 2007 at 2:43 pm

A photo of The Rialto Theatre from 1958
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A photo of the Rialto Theatre from 1954
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A theater identified as The Rialto from 1930
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Lost Memory
Lost Memory on September 1, 2007 at 2:44 am

A Pilcher theater organ opus 1058 size 2/18 was installed in the Old Mill Theater in 1920 at a cost of $9,600.

Smoke on July 2, 2006 at 9:14 am

From the post about the Strand…

1960â€"torn down along with Rialto and Capitol, the same year for parking lots.

Source: Dallas Morning News Archives