Rialto Theatre

400 Cherokee Street,
Kingsport, TN 37660

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Rialto Theatre

Originally opened on May 26, 1921 with Priscilla Dean in “Outside the Law”. The Rialto Theatre became the second and third run science fiction movies theatre in the late-1950’s. By then it was showing its age and getting tattered. Because it was near the somewhat skid row ‘five points’ intersection and neighborhood, it had a seedy reputation.

It closed as a movie theatre in 1961 or 1962. The auditorium was gutted and converted into a billiard parlour. Apartments were built over the parlour, and a restaurant operated out of the lobby. The marquee was still used to advertise the restaurant.

In the 1960’s, a gas explosion in the basement damaged the structure and it was closed. It was demolished around 1968.

Contributed by Jack Coursey, Bruce Gentry

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

kencmcintyre on November 4, 2006 at 3:42 pm

Here is an ad for a rather exotic film showing at the Rialto on 1/23/38:


For the first time on any screen … the horrifying, blood-chilling
rites of the savage PENITENTES, whose pagan idolatry forces
them to undergo self-torture and flagellation before they can reach
the apex of their sacrifices, crucifixion!



Any Seat – 10c and 20c – Any Time

kencmcintyre on August 22, 2007 at 10:02 pm

Here is a December 1944 ad from the Kingsport Times:

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 22, 2010 at 3:08 am

The description accompanying this 1946 photo of the Rialto and a neighboring store gives the theater’s address as 400 Cherokee Street. It also says that the buildings on this block have been demolished to make way for a parking lot.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 16, 2014 at 4:09 pm

The Rialto was in operation by 1921, when a candy store called the Palace of Sweets advertised in the July 11 issue of The Kingsport Times that it was located on Cherokee Street opposite the Rialto Theatre.

An article in the August 22, 1937, issue of The Kingsport Times said that the Rialto had just been purchased by the Nu-Strand Theatre company, who had been operating the house under a lease for ten years. The new owners planned to expand and remodel the theater.

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