Rialto Theatre

336 S. State Street,
Chicago, IL 60604

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Rialto Theatre

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Opened in 1917 as a venue for vaudeville and motion pictures, near the corner of State Street and Van Buren Street, the Rialto Theatre could seat over 1,500.

The theater was designed by the architectural duo of Marshall & Fox, who also designed the earlier legitimate Blackstone Theatre (now the Merle Reskin), the Blackstone Hotel and, later, Chicago’s famed Drake Hotel.

This mid-sized venue was located directly across the street from the Neo-Classical style department store building that began its life as Rothschild’s, then the Davis Store, then Goldblatt’s and is today the Loop campus of DePaul University.

Later called the Loop End Theatre and still later, the Downtown Theatre, the Rialto Theatre was a burlesque house by the 1930’s and closed in December 1953.

It was demolished in January 1954. It was replaced by a handful of small one-story retail stores (“taxpayers”), which in turn were also torn down in the late-1980’s/early-1990’s, replaced by Pritzker Park, which is on the site today.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 25 comments)

GeneBray
GeneBray on February 28, 2008 at 11:49 am

I graduated from Iowa State in May of 1953 and went to my first duty station, the USS Gainard DD706 in Newport RI, by train via Chicago. There I and my colleagues went to Minsky’s Burlesque at the Rialto Theater and as I recall the headliner was Gypsy Rose Lee. After the normal burlesque fare, her (or her impersonator’s) closing act was poised and left a lot to the imagination.

At that time I felt I had witnessed the end of an era and that was confirmed by the closing of that venue shortly thereafter. In past years I marveled at the last glimpse oportunity that represented. She was a class act and didn’t stoop to the tawdry, bump and grind routine. At 21 years of age, while I was somewhat disappointed, I had great respect for her artistry. Last evening in Boise I attended “Gypsy” at the Morrison Center and that brought back these almost forgotten memories.

bryanLloyd
bryanLloyd on May 29, 2008 at 11:44 am

I recall the 2nd Rialto myself as a boy. I also recall The Follies.
There was a three piece orchestra to the right of the stage, dirty
comedians, and the girls with “ paisties ”, as well as the Great Lakes Sailors. I’m talking 1963-7 period. The johns were full of
“ pervs ” who used sign language. Infact all the Loop Theaters
-esp the Balconies-were infested. I worked at Wards the ex- “ FAIR "
just North of this Infamous State St Vice District which included 25
cent flops, hock shops, arcades with 1-cent and nickel arcade machines from c.1900, and Tatts Thomas Tatoo Emporium. All this was
just North of the Pacific Garden Mission-or the Old Whisky Row-
Chicago’s First Levee. In 67 I left Chi for the Navy. Todays it all Gone.

PancreaticDefect
PancreaticDefect on February 7, 2009 at 10:28 pm

I found this in an abandoned house outside of Kalamazoo, MI. Both films menioned were released in 1927 so I can only assume that was when this was printed, the week of March 12th 1927.

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kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on March 9, 2009 at 9:56 pm

Here is part of a Chicago Tribune article dated 11/24/53:

A half million dollar building program covering 220 feet of frontage from 326 to 356 S. State St. at the northwest corner of State and Van Buren Sts. was announced yesterday. The project includes demolition of the Rialto Theater, now operated as Minsky’s burlesque house, which will ring down its curtains for the last time on Dec. 9.

Joseph Rosenberg, owner of the property, said it will be replaced by a one story building of shops, all air conditioned. The new structure will front 100 feet on State St. with a depth of 100 feet. Edward Steinborn, Inc. is architect. Completion is set for May 1.

The Rialto Theater was built in 1916 by Jones, Linick and Schaefer and operated as a movie house. It has 1,500 seats. Marshall & Fox was architect. After various changes in management and policies it was leased several years ago for occupancy by Minsky’s burlesque. Rosenberg bought it from Yale University and others in 1949 for $500,000 through Louis Manierre of Dibblee and Manierre.

Broan
Broan on March 9, 2009 at 10:58 pm

Yale? Go figure…

mikebaggi
mikebaggi on March 26, 2009 at 8:21 pm

As a teenager in the 1950s I discovered the Rialto Theater when it started showing older movies that I had not seen. Since I lived just outside the Loop I spent many a summer day wandering around the Loop movie theaters and shops. I saw a number of older Abbott & Costello movies there along with most of the Universal Studios horror movies. I especially remember the Invisible Man movies. The always had double features.

I recall once sitting in one of the rear seats and noticing a plastic box affixed to the rear of the seat in front of me. It had a slot for the insertion of a quarter to unlock the box. I was curious, but not twenty-five cents curious. The lock opened to my penknife blade and resting inside were a pair of small binoculars with a plastic cord attached to both the glasses and the box. I laughed like hell!

Now if you wanted spicer entertainment it could be found a block or so South on State Street in the form of The Follies Theater and Burlesque house.

I was only 14 years old but they sold me a ticket anyway. It was a classic burlesque house that even included the between-the-acts salesman. I can still remember his spiel: “Now I am going to pass among you with these boxes of candy which sell for two dollars a box. A lot to pay for candy, you say! Well with each box I will give away absolutely free this special picture booklet which can only be sold to doctors. Now I can’t tell if you’re a doctor or not …..”

In those days the Loop was an exciting place to be. And it was safe too. I miss it.

Mike

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 6, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Several of the comments on this theater’s page actually pertain to the later Rialto Theatre at 546 S. State Street, which took the name sometime after this house closed.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on March 27, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Just added a circa 1953 Chuckman photo and a 1945 print ad.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on March 27, 2014 at 6:11 pm

@ Broan:

I’m not sure how Yale is/was financed. But they might have simply been investing their endowment in things that seemed sensible at the time.

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