Rialto Theatre

1023 Fair Oaks Avenue,
South Pasadena, CA 91030

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Showing 1 - 25 of 231 comments

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on August 21, 2013 at 10:04 am

Article http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/government-and-politics/20130820/south-pasadena-weighs-plans-for-decaying-rialto-theatre

Escott O. Norton
Escott O. Norton on July 14, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Thanks ejones! If you win that lottery, give us a call! If and when we are able to restore and reopen the Rialto Theatre I also want to see silents and classics as a part of the programming!

Since you mentioned seeing the filming, you might be interested in the stills I’ve posted on our Facebook page from The Player as well as some other films that have been shot at the Rialto. Go to our Facebook page, click on Photos, then look for an album titled: “The Rialto Theatre in the Movies”

www.FriendsoftheRialto.org
www.facebook.com/FriendsoftheRialto

ejones880
ejones880 on July 14, 2013 at 3:58 pm

I lived in South Pasadena\Alhambra in 1992. I remember I was driving around the area when the “The Player” was being filmed and the actors in my way in the street on Mission. I saw the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Much Ado About Nothing and Life is Beautiful here. Sad that’s its closed now, If I won the lottery I would open it and show silent and classic films.

Dramatrauma
Dramatrauma on June 11, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Thanks to the local groups spurring on the sign restoration and preservation of the Rialto. But, Jebbia Family Trust and Landmark Cinema shouldnt it be you taking the lead to make sure this fantastic facility can once again be a growing concern for the both of you? Lets hope the new sign lights the way to these two entities giving the Rialto the attention it needs to bring them income they need. Why spend the next 12 years just sitting on it?

Homeboy
Homeboy on May 4, 2012 at 4:15 pm

From “Signs of the Times,” May 2012:

Rialto Theater’s 85-Year-Old Sign Saved: Efforts underway to preserve South Pasadena landmark

The iconic blade sign at South Pasadena, CA’s historic Rialto Theatre, which was opened in 1925 but is currently shuttered, has avoided a date with the wrecking ball. Local police expressed concern that a February windstorm that swept through the area had damaged the building and sign, and rendered it unsafe. The sidewalk in front of the building was closed as a precaution.

However, structural engineer Michael Krakower, a historic-building specialist, determined the Rialto’s sign posed no imminent structural danger. Landmark Theatres, which holds a lease on the property until 2024, has decided to repair the sign and is currently seeking a contractor.

Escott O. Norton, a spokesman for Friends of the Rialto, said, “The blade sign dates to the building’s original construction, and the lower marquee was replaced in the ’30s and ’40s. There is visible rust around the blade sign, and the paint around the marquee is peeling.”

He said both signs are protected by a National Register of Historic Places designation, which requires more approvals to tear it down, but doesn’t guarantee the sign’s preservation. Dominick Jebbia acquired the Rialto in the 1930s, and placed it in a family trust in 1950, which still endures.

Scott Feldmann
Scott Feldmann on April 7, 2012 at 10:40 am

Looking for photos of the Rialto and/or its connection to Route 66. The Chamber is applying for grant funding to help refurb the original blade sign, which is undergoing stabilization and structural repairs right now. Route 66 – the original alignment – passed the Rialto. Anyone with stories or photos to help connect the two, please email

Escott O. Norton
Escott O. Norton on December 21, 2011 at 9:52 am

Hi All! Great to see all of the interest and information being shared here! There is momentum in the community to restore the Rialto and reopen it! I’m forming a non-profit advocacy group: http://www.FriendsoftheRialto.org to open a dialogue with all interested parties with the ultimate goal of bringing the old girl back to LIFE! Whether it is working with the current owners, or future buyers, or gaining a controlling interest as a non-profit, our goal is to restore and open the Rialto up once again, AND respect and preserve the historic theatre. If you want to stay informed, join us on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/FriendsoftheRialto

Scott Feldmann
Scott Feldmann on September 20, 2011 at 3:18 pm

The console was purchased and returned to the City by Mark and Marinel Robinson. It can be seen at the Meridian Iron Works Museum at the Farmers' Market on Thursday’s, 4 to 8pm. Docent Bill Hilliard talks it up and shows it off. I do not know where the other pieces and parts are.

William
William on September 20, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Villemin Pipe Organ Company of Porterville, CA removed what remained in 1972.

powerguy
powerguy on September 20, 2011 at 12:17 pm

I have a spectacular 33 RPM record of George Wright playing the Wurlitzer pipe organ at the Rialto (Dot DLP 25712). He recorded it after a Mr. John Curry rebuilt the organ as a labor of love from 1956 – 1962. Too bad the organ was damaged by fire and water in the later 1960’s. Does anyone know where the remains of the organ went. It was a real loss.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 15, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Scott, you’ll probably be interested in three items mentioning Claude Langley in various 1916 issues of The Moving Picture World, available in this scan from Google Books. They name Langley as directing manager and treasurer of the Turner & Dahnken circuit, so his association with them clearly predates his partnership with them in the various Southern California theaters they operated.

(Note: Google Books has changed the way it functions, so to see all three of the magazine items mentioning Langley you’ll have to hit the “clear search” link, then re-enter the terms Turner Dahnken Langley in the search box and hit Go.)

A card in the California Index cites a January 29, 1923, item from the Glendale News Press which said that West Coast Theatres had bought the entire TD&L chain, so Langley’s association with West Coast began no later than that. An early 1923 article about the West Coast takeover in The Film Daily said that the TD&L circuit consisted of fourteen theaters, “…five theaters in Los Angeles, three in Pasadena, two in Glendale and one each in Huntington Park, Taft and several other towns.”

Scott Feldmann
Scott Feldmann on June 26, 2011 at 11:57 am

Thanks, Joe. Great stuff. Oops on the Raymond opening date! That means my earlier comment on Langley building the Raymond is also off. I’ll be more careful.

Regarding the showman Langley, here are some more clues. Perhaps someone will take up your challenge on writing the West Coast Theatres story …

A Pasadena Post story on April 5, 1924 headlined “NEW POLICY STARTED AT RAYMOND” has the subhead “Theater Opens With Great Vaudeville Bill Today and Feature Film.” It states: “… today the theater came under the management of [Ralph] Allan, who has had charge of the Pasadena Egyptian theater for some months.”

There was also a story in The Post on Friday, April 4, 1924 with the headline “THEATRES IN MERGER; PLAN NEW HOUSES” that highlights plans for two new theaters on “Colorado Street” by Lake Ave. and East Washington. It reports that two large theater corporations are being consolidated and planning an expenditure of over $1,000,000 on two sites in Pasadena. This was announced by Sol Lesser, vice president of the West Coast Theatres, Inc. The paper states that together with Southwest Theatres Inc., the Greater Pasadena Theatres Company will be formed with C. L. Langley, president of Southwest Theaters as manager and Sol Lesser as Secretary. It also says the combined companies operate 122 theaters in Southern California and their consolidation combined the interests of the Raymond, Pasadena, Egyptian, Strand and Florence Theatres. It closes with: “They have franchises on the Famous Players, Lasky, Principal Pictures corporation, Metro and Goldwyn pictures.”

Six months later, a pairing of operators made a deal with a South Pasadena banker and his wife to build the Rialto on their land. And these were not Langley & Lesser, but Langley & Gore. The original lease for the Rialto, dated September 23, 1924 is between lessors Clyde M. and Isabelle M. Church, and lessees West Coast Theatres, Inc. and C. L. Langley Inc. Apparently Langley was operating a separate organization as well as the one he just merged into, because on Wednesday, one day after this agreement, a story and photo ran in the Pasadena Evening Post, captioned: “C. L. Langley – Who Invites the People of Pasadena to Be His Guests at the Raymond Theater Thursday Evening.” The lease for the Rialto was executed by M. Gore, President, West Coast Theatres, Inc., attested to by A. L. Gore, Secretary and for C. L. Langley Inc. by C. L. Langley, President, with C.E. Kells, Secretary.

The Rialto plans changed quite a bit in this three-month period. There is an August advertisement of a $350,000 theatre, store and apartment building, with the theatre seating 1,600, then an early October solicitation for contractors to build it with 1,800 seats and a Class “A” stage, plus four stores and several apartments; $150,000. By October 22nd the South Pasadena local newspaper reports that the permit was approved for a $110,000 structure as “one of the largest single sums ever registered in the city.” It also states that the building will be “of Buddhist design”. Finally, a story in the Federated News one year later, prior to opening night, reveals 800 seats on the ground floor with a 400-seat balcony.

Although too long for this post, there’s an interesting competitive race in the building of yet another major theater, announced the same week in April 1924 – Bard’s Alexandria at Colorado and Catalina.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 25, 2011 at 4:32 pm

An earlier comment by Scott Feldmann says that the Raymond Theatre in Pasadena opened one month before the Rialto. The Raymond opened in 1921, four years before the Rialto, and was originally operated by its builder, Henry C. Jenson.

C. L. Langley’s various business associations were complex, and I’ve never been able to sort them out completely. I know that he was associated with San Francisco theater men J. T. Turner and Fred Dahnken in several Southern California theaters by 1921, but his association with Sol Lesser and the Gore Brothers in the West Coast circuit seems to have begun later and might have overlapped with his Turner and Dahnken partnership.

Henry Jenson’s Palace Grand Theatre in Glendale had been taken over by Turner, Dahnken & Langley and renamed the TD&L Theatre by 1923, so the partnership might have taken over Jenson’s Raymond as well, though I’ve never found any sources that say so. However, the Raymond was operated by West Coast-Langley Theatres at some time in the early 1920s, so Turner and Dahnken might not have been Langley’s partners in that particular theater. All the Turner, Dahnken & Langley references in the L.A. Library’s California Index date from 1921, so I’m not sure how long the partnership lasted.

I’m sure that West Coast-Langley Theatres was a different company than West Coast Theatres, Inc., which was formed by Sol Lesser, Adolph Ramish, and the Gore brothers, Abe and Mike, in 1920. West Coast-Langley appears to have been an affiliate of West Coast, and was later taken over completely by West Coast Theatres, or by its successor, Fox-West Coast Theatres, which was formed in 1928 (footnote: William Fox held an interest in West Coast Theatres as early as 1925, when he bought a big block of stock in the company from Adolph Ramish.) Langley also headed companies called Greater Pasadena Theatres, Inc., and Southwest Theatres, Inc., which were affiliated with West Coast Theatres.

Eventually (about 1930, I think,) Fox-West Coast also took over Turner and Dahnken’s large T&D circuit, which operated dozens of theaters from Central California to the Pacific Northwest. Some of T&D’s operations ended up in the T&D Jr. circuit, which operated mostly in the Central Valley of California, and was headed by Mike Naify. I’ve been unable to discover if Turner and Dahnken had any part in T&D Jr.

I’m not sure of what became of C.L. Langley after Fox took over West Coast Theatres, but I’ve found a single reference to a theater being built for him at Indio in 1930. Sol Lesser, who sold his West Coast shares in 1926, and Abe and Mike Gore later operated theaters on their own.

As far as I know, nobody has ever written a book about the early development of West Coast Theatres, and its evolution into Fox West Coast, so the information is scattered and details are hard to find. Such a book would be a good project for somebody with more patience than I have.

Scott Feldmann
Scott Feldmann on June 25, 2011 at 11:36 am

Do you have a Rialto story to tell? We’re creating a local video history of the theatre, and looking for you! Email for more information.

Scott Feldmann
Scott Feldmann on June 5, 2011 at 5:30 am

There are a few updates to the information pool on the Rialto, South Pasadena. The site RialtoSouthPasadena.com has news and links. Also, SouthPasadena.Patch.com posted an excellent story and video by Laurie Allee in May, 2011. Finally, if you search YouTube for “Rialto South Pasadena” you’ll find the Miranda Gontz mini-documentary, which I also posted here in the video section.

Scott Feldmann
Scott Feldmann on January 22, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Thanks Howard Haas for updating the intro to credit C.L.Langley as the showman who built it, not his competitor Bard. Langley also operated the Raymond, which opened one month prior to the Rialto, and provided the organist Roy Metcalfe for the premiere. For more arcane information on the Rialto, and some updates, visit www.RialtoSouthPasadena.com

coweyhere
coweyhere on November 6, 2010 at 5:46 pm

A photo from October 2010:

View link

Dublinboyo
Dublinboyo on June 14, 2010 at 9:59 am

Does the City of South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce have any information about the current condition of the Rialto Theater? Will the City of South Pasadena fire code violations be rectified allowing future use of the theater? Any contact with the owners? With the proposed City of South Pasadena redevelopment on hold due to the econonmy, does the city have any plans in working with the owners in trying to at least restore the Rialto to some level of use? I ask this because a city that uses this iconic theater as propaganda and symbol used in everything associated with the city including the City of South Pasadena float in the Rose Parade must have some knowledge of what’s going on with it and any plans for future use or restoration. So, how about it South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce – what’s going on with the Rialto?

William
William on May 17, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Howard sometime re-writes the main descriptions for many of the theatres on this site. He’s done a good job on many. This one has date problems and Mann Theatres was not in this market till around 1973.

Scott Feldmann
Scott Feldmann on May 17, 2010 at 2:00 pm

There are errors in this website. It’s a terrific resource – so it’s tough to criticize. Just treat it like the blog that it is. See my posts above – the theatre was not built by Lou Bard, and now, as your photo shows, the Bard’s that the Rialto is not based on is also not demolished!

drb
drb on May 15, 2010 at 5:50 am

From the description for this theater:

The Rialto Theatre was built by local showman L. Lou Bard, who had an Egyptian interior in each of his showplaces. His other 'Bard's' were [...] Bard's Glendale-1924 in Glendale (now demolished)

Since yesterday???
(I took these photos in Glendale yesterday afternoon and made a Before-And-After pic)
View link

Dublinboyo
Dublinboyo on April 8, 2010 at 6:07 am

Looks like the city of South Pasadena has “closed” the Rialto due to violation of some city ordinances. The city has posted a notice on the front door stating that the Rilato is in violation of city codes and a fire hazard. It’s anyone’s guess whether the owner will put any money into the theater to fix the problem and bring it up to code. I belive Landmark had a few years left on their lease before it ran and was renting the theater out for parties, screenings and filming. Until the theater is brought up to code, they won’t even be able to do that and the theater … just sits there … crumbling away. I would be interested to know if anybody else has information about the current condition of the Rialto.

DonLewis
DonLewis on February 8, 2010 at 7:50 pm

From the Jack Bailey Collection, a partial view of the Rialto Theatre , tower, neon and Rialto signage.

Dublinboyo
Dublinboyo on January 4, 2010 at 10:27 am

Would it kill the owner to at least paint the building? I mean c'mon. I now he won’t sell it under any circumstances to the city, but how about at least putting a coat of paint on it?