Rialto Theater

1221 Vine Street,
Cincinnati, OH 45210

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Heuck’s Opera House was built in 1882 and closed 1915 to be reopened as the Rialto Theater, a movie house. Heuck’s claimed to have the first electric footlights 1883 in this country, but as we all know how often that claim is made by how many theaters across America, who knows who was the first?

Heuck’s played second-rate vaudeville/melodrama. W.C.Dunkenfield (later known as W.C. Fields) played in a touring vaudeville company here in 1898. Hubert Heuck later built the Lyric Theater on Vine Street in 1905, a far classier trade attended there.

The Rialto movie theater, always a second-run house, was demolished in 1959. Today the site is a parking lot.

Contributed by hank sykes

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

meheuck
meheuck on November 20, 2006 at 5:51 am

The Heuck’s also claimed to have one of the first revolving doors in the country, but that patrons did not understand the concept and it had to replaced with a conventional entrance.

Was the Lyric initially known as Peoples' Theatre? That’s how it was always referred to in my family…being that I am a Heuck. ;)

hanksykes
hanksykes on November 20, 2006 at 8:25 pm

Hello meheuck ,as far as my research taught me ,“The Lyric Th.”,was never called anything but Lyric. However ,“Peoples Th.” and “Heucks Th.”, swapped names back and forth several times. They were located at 12th.&13th Streets and were both owned by Mr. Heuck .

hanksykes
hanksykes on November 21, 2006 at 1:44 pm

Hello again, mechuck as you probably know the shell of Peoples Theater still stands at the corner of Vine and 13th. streets. It is currently an apartment complex and has been in the past a clothing store and several other apartment conversion attempts. Nice to hear from a member of the Heuck family there is of course a fine volume about your great grandfather’s theatrical enterprises at our main library. Until soon, Hank

meheuck
meheuck on November 23, 2006 at 5:12 am

For years the extended Heuck family have entertained pipe dreams of somehow reviving the space as a theatre, especially during the “brewery” revival in the ‘90’s. From what I understand, they were thwarted by a now-deceased community activist who insisted that the apartments in the complex were needed for the poor in the area. I don’t know all the details though of what exactly the evolution of the land has been – what I get is often sifted through myth, old age, and hype.

hanksykes
hanksykes on November 28, 2006 at 8:58 pm

It’s me again,meheuck. After finding a great article about your family in an old Enquirer newspaper it has put into order the Cincinnati Heuck entertainment order. Probably you know all these items, but here goes anyway. In 1865 Mr. Heuck built at 13th and Vine streets the Heuck Beer Saloon,by 1875 he’d had so much business that he tore down the Saloon and erected the Heuck’s Opera House. By 1882 with much success from his entertainment empire he bought the Coliseum Beer Hall between 12th & 13th streets to construct a new Heuck’s Opera House on that site. When the new Heuck’s Opera House at 12th Street opened to avoid confusion with his former theater he changed the 13th Street structure to the name of Peoples Theater. By 1905 Heuck moved to the center of town and built the Lyric Th. on Fountain Square along Vine Street to offer classier shows that were presented by the Shubert Brothers of NYC.Was glad to learn about the troublesome revolving door he installed at Heuck’s,today I imagine the fire authorities would not permit such an entrance for a busy theater. Write me some more make me more knowledgable,until then,Hank.

hanksykes
hanksykes on June 5, 2007 at 11:49 pm

The lobby of Peoples Theater is now occupied by a group of Nuns who run a mighty fine Pizza Parlor there I’m told. All that’s left of Peoples Theater is the front two story lobby with apartments on the second floor This area however is considerably improved from just a year ago as a real effort is being made by the City and landlords to attract better healed tenants and condo owners to Vine and 13th. Street. It’s a pleasure to see improvements in an area that still has magnificent architecture waiting to be saved and used.

hanksykes
hanksykes on June 22, 2007 at 10:04 pm

I have been to the former Peoples Theater which is now a pizza parlor and sandwich cafe. Amazingly the original plaster ceiling beautifully detailed work still shows ,although at the end of what was the lobby a large pizza oven sits. The remaining theatre and beer garden was long in an area now footprinted by a huge parking lot. My sandwich by the by was delicious

dynne
dynne on February 12, 2010 at 6:52 pm

Here’s an update for the architect that may be useful:
(from View link)

Cobb, Oscar
(State of Maine, 1847-1908)
Midwestern theater architect who designed the famous Heuck Opera House (1883), NWC Vine and 13th streets, Over-the-Rhine, which was part of complex that included the still-existing People’s Theater. The Opera House, one of the largest and acoustically most admired in the region, was demolished ca. 1859.
Cobb moved to Chicago after the Fire of 1871, almost immediately specializing in theater design. Among his works elsewhere was the Frankfort, Ky. Opera House.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 27, 2013 at 10:06 pm

The mini-biography of Oscar Cobb that dynne linked to is now on this page, though there’s no guarantee it will stay there.

A somewhat longer biographical sketch of Cobb, published in 1885, can be seen at this Google Books link. It, too, notes Heuck’s New Opera House in Cincinnati as one of Cobb’s designs.

In 1904, a $15,000 remodeling of the Opera House was undertaken, the project being designed by the Cincinnati firm of Rapp, Zettle & Rapp, as noted in the May, 1904, issue of The Ohio Architect and Builder.

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