Rialto Theatre

439-441 Market Street,
Sunbury, PA 17801

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Rialto Theatre

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The Victoria Theatre was a small theatre located on the main street of Sunbury. It opened November 9, 1911. In 1930 it was taken over by the Comerford Theaters Inc. chain and renamed Rialto Theatre.

As I recall the theatre had no balcony and the first impression one got of it was of its small size. Despite the small size of the theatre, it was picked as the showcase theatre for an extended area wide run of “The Sound of Music”.

The Rialto Theatre closed December 27, 1978 when it was destroyed by a fire. The final movie was Brad Davis in “Midnight Express”.

Contributed by Gary Hoy

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

movietime
movietime on January 17, 2007 at 5:49 pm

The Rialto was actually built circa 1920. The front of the building was a mix of classic and Beaux-Arts style. It had an open air foyer with vaulted ceiling and numerous bare light bulbs. There were offices on the third floor over the lobby. The lobby was about 20x20 feet with restrooms left and right. Seating was approx 475. There was a small stage, tin ceilings and cooling fans mounted to the pilasters. It must have been a pleasantly comfortable theater in its heyday. The Comerford chain aquired it in the late 20’s and added the marquee. Comerford was aquired by Cinecom and Cinecom by Sportservice. And sorry Jeff but it was only leased by American Amusement.

jeffreyt
jeffreyt on November 15, 2007 at 8:28 am

Here’s a 1950’s vintage outside shot:
View link

jeffreyt
jeffreyt on November 15, 2007 at 8:30 am

Here’s a scan of a ticket from the early 1970’s:

View link

jeffreyt
jeffreyt on March 29, 2008 at 12:01 pm

I have just learned from a past employee of this theatre that it was once named “Victoria”

Laddie
Laddie on March 15, 2009 at 7:44 pm

Recall The Rialto playing more childrens films towards the end, along with a lot of double features.

Was in disrepair before the fire, which I thought was in the early 1980’s? Could be wrong…

jeffreyt
jeffreyt on December 29, 2009 at 8:39 am

The Rialto burned on December 27, 1978. There is a picture of the theatre burning on the Daily Item – Sunbury, PA Website

www.dailyitem.com

Click on Photos, then Photo Gallery, and then Historical Photos and Front Pages.

There is also a picture from the 60’s that has Sunbury’s other theatre, the Strand, in it.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 7, 2014 at 11:02 pm

A permit for a theater at Sunbury was issued in March, 1919, and noted in the Department Reports of Pennsylvania that year. No details about the project were given except that it was being built by the “Gen. Amusement Co.” (probably a company set up for the specific purpose of building the house) and designed by architect W. H. Lee. Given that he Rialto was built around 1920, it was probably this project.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on November 2, 2017 at 8:40 am

The Rialto was still in operation when it burned. “Midnight Express” released October 6th, 1978 was on the marquee, at the time of the December 27th, 1978 fire.

dallasmovietheaters
dallasmovietheaters on February 4, 2018 at 7:51 pm

The Victoria Theatre launched November 9, 1911 by L.J. Chamberlin. With two Powers projectors, diminutive lobby, and sloped floor, the Victoria was a mainstay in silent film presentation in Sunbury. When the Victoria was sold to Comerford Circuit in 1930, it was changed to the Rialto Theatre, the name which it retained until 1978.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on February 4, 2018 at 8:15 pm

Overview still needs to be updated. The Rialto was still in operation when it burned. “Midnight Express” released October 6th, 1978 was on the marquee, at the time of the December 27th, 1978 fire.

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