Rio Theater

119 North Oneida Street,
Appleton, WI 54911

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Mezzanine Foyer of the Fox Theatre, Appleton, Wis., in 1929

Viewing: Photo | Street View

This was the showplace of Appleton since it opened on November 16, 1929 as the Fox Theatre. It was designed in a Moorish/Atmospheric style by architect Larry P. Larson. In the 1930’s it was renamed Rio Theatre and closed in 1959. It was demolished in April 1963.

Contributed by Ken McIntyre

Recent comments (view all 14 comments)

deleted user
[Deleted] on March 11, 2009 at 12:12 am

This organ will be located in the auditorium known as Greek Hall in Macy’s.

tmsenzig on November 23, 2009 at 2:25 pm

Kind of hard to tell exactly from one of the pictures posted above, but methinks that the site of the Rio is now occuped either by the Appleton Public Library or parking ramp across the street from it.

Silicon Sam
Silicon Sam on November 23, 2009 at 3:35 pm

From the first Rio photo link above, here is the same view now..

Oneida St. N from College Ave.

Looks like the parking garage (hidden from view) is the site. And the building on the right hand corner is still there….

Silicon Sam
Silicon Sam on November 23, 2009 at 6:06 pm

Well, if you look at my picture, and the Google map provided with the link, the 100 block of Oneida doesn’t exist any longer…. It did at one time.

Silicon Sam
Silicon Sam on January 11, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Makes no sense on the library parking lot since the library is at 225. N. Oneida, the parking lot is in the same 200 block (between Washington and E,. Franklin St.)

If the theater was indeed at 119, that would put it in between E. College and Washington. Greyhound is listed at 100 E. Washington.

Silicon Sam
Silicon Sam on January 11, 2010 at 4:58 pm

The Greyhound is listed at 100 E. Washington, not 100 N. Oneida. They are 2 different streets completely. All links online point to an address of 100 E. Greyhound.

View link

If you look at this photo again, you can see where the 100 block used to be. The photo was taken from College Ave.

View link

Silicon Sam
Silicon Sam on January 11, 2010 at 7:55 pm

I was just saying the Rio was between College and Washington St, in the 100 block, and you did not agree. You are saying it’s in the 200 block. That’s all…

But you are right, Oneida and N. Oneida at one point are 2 different streets. They actually merge together.

View link

And it changes from one to the other completely as it goes North a few blocks to Wisconsin Ave. You’re right, very odd it would do that.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 12, 2010 at 6:36 am

Bing Maps has a bird’s-eye view showing that the two blocks either side of Oneida Street between College Avenue and Washington Street have been consumed by one of those enclosed downtown shopping malls that became so popular for a while. It’s called City Center Plaza, which is a bit ironic considering that they apparently gutted a big chunk of the center of the city to build it. Part of the multi-level garage on the north side of the project must occupy the site of the Rio.

Use the address 2 E. College Ave., Appleton, WI at Bing Maps and select bird’s eye view to see what became of the 100 block of N. Oneida Street.

The diamond-patterned tapestry brick and the arches on the facade of the Rio reveal the architectural style to be Venetian. Most likely the interior was also Venetian. The name Rio in the dialect of Venice is the singular of rii, the local term for the side canals leading off the Grand Canal.

I’ve been unable to discover the name of the architect of this splendid theater, but reports in the trade papers of the time indicate that it was built for Fox Theatres. Movie Age of January 12, 1929, said that plans had been approved for a 2000-seat theater to be built at Appleton by Fox-Midwesco, and it would be completed by September that year. This was probably the Rio.

Information about the surviving Wurlitzer organ from the Rio can be found on this web page.

LouisRugani on November 1, 2010 at 6:13 pm

The theatre opened with 2,000 seats (700 of which were in the balcony) as the FOX on November 16, 1929, and was designed in Moorish style by the architects of United Studios of Chicago, the same firm which designed the KENOSHA, the Racine VENETIAN and the SHEBOYGAN. Two of the architects who worked for United were Ralph Beaudry and Fred Jacobs. United’s manager/director was L. P. Larsen.

Veloman on September 6, 2013 at 10:50 am

My father, Bud Owen was an assistant manager under Stan Gross. When I was a kid I used to sit at the Wurlitzer organ when dad took me to the theater. It was very impressive to a 5 year old.

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