Rialto Theatre

546 S. State Street,
Chicago, IL 60605

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Art Shay Photo via Chicagoist

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This was seemingly always a seedy joint. Opened in 1906 for the Jones, Linick & Schaefer circuit as the U.S. Music Hall, it was shut down briefly in 1916 for indecency, as it was always primarily a burlesque house. In 1922 an abandoned baby was found there; in 1932 there was a rapist and killer caught there; over the years gambling was broken up, mob links were found, and it was shut down repeatedly.

By 1934 it had become the State-Harrison Theatre. By the mid-1940’s, it had gone burlesque before the city shut it down at the end of 1954 for lewd conduct. By 1967 it was called the Rialto Theatre, probably for the associations people had with the old Rialto Theatre a couple blocks north, when it was shut down again.

It reopened in 1971. In November 1974 it closed briefly after being victim of a series of coordinated bombings of Chicago porn houses – the Rialto Theatre, Follies Theatre, Newberry Theatre, and Bijou Theatre were victims. It soon reopened, but was shut down for good a few months later in 1975 as part of a code crackdown that shut a number of theaters.

For many years, a large two-level parking garage sat on the site of this theatre, but today, the University Center of Chicago is on the site, containing dorms and retail space.

Contributed by BW Chicago, Bryan Krefft
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