Rialto Theatre

218 Campbell Avenue,
Roanoke, VA 24011

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The Rialto Theatre was open in 1925 with seating listed at 622. The theatre was owned by E.D. Hines followed by National Theatre Corp. The theatre was closed in the mid-1950’s.

Contributed by Chuck

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lackey
lackey on July 15, 2012 at 5:39 pm

I use to work for National Theatre Corp and the Rialto opened in 1920 and closed in 1955. It was a long and very narrow theatre with a small balcony with the projection room in the back of balcony. For years and years Mr. Hines only booked WESTERN movies often starring Hoot Gibson, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers etc there. At the Park Theatre Mr. Hines often booked your Gary Grant or Loretta Young type movies. At the American which had 2,000 seats he booked the big films such as Gone with the Wind. At The Roanoke was usally second run films and often it was a film that just finished a run next door at the American. The newspaper ad would read “Dial M For Murder HELD OVER FOR A FOURTH WEEK AND MOVED NEXT DOOR TO THE ROANOKE!”

Also the Roanoke in the teens and 20’s was on the Keith circuit and had a regular diet of stage shows. Even in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, Mr. Hines would often book stage shows at the Roanoke usually on Wednesday nights. And several over the years were dancing “girl” shows complete with 10 to 15 piece band down in the pit in front of the footlights. Lots of women in town then would be mad at their husbands if they found out they had been to The Roanoke Theater for that kind of show!!!

Mr.Hines was a stern boss and manager who never watched a movie himself, always called at 10:15pm every night on the dot to get the box office report on The American, The Roanoke, The Park and The Rialto. He never took a vacation according to legend and arrived at his plush office in The American Theater building at the same time each day and left at the same time each night. He said his job was “to put seats in seats”. He WAS the boss and part owner of the company and booked all movies, stage shows and created all newspaper ads and other ads. After the plush American opened in 1928, he rarely went to his other theaters including The Roanoke which was just next door. One of his long time employees, T. R. Emerson, liked to hide liquor in various places. He was a stage hand for the American and Roanoke. Night watchman at times at The American and slept on a couch on the mezzanine near the Managers office where he would watch the Tonight Show every night which had Steve Allen, then Jack Parr and finally Johnny Carson on the manager’s black and white TV set (only B&W tv then anyway) and he would operate the movie projectors at The Roanoke on a simi regular basis and occasionally The Park and The Rialto. Mr. Hines fired Mr. Emerson about 40 times and Emerson just kept coming to work and each week had a pay check signed by Hines. I never figured out how that actually worked:–) In 1976 after Hines died and all of his theaters had closed and torn down, Emerson was projectionist at The Grandin Theater on Grandin Rd in Roanoke which was a Craver Theater Co. property then and he died of a heart attack while on the job. 60 years of continues work in theaters in Roanoke, Va. May I tip my hat to him!! He was a great guy and loved to smoke cigars that he often would send me (as a teen) to buy up at the Hotel Patrick Henry on Jefferson St at midnight. I guess I was too young to buy ‘um but I just said I was with The National Theater Corp and I was here to pick up some cigars for Mr. Emerson and bang the guy would hand me three of Emerson’s brand.

seats in seats".

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