Rivoli Theatre

418 East Baltimore Street,
Baltimore, MD 21202

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Rivoli Theatre

Today, the 400 block of East Baltimore Street is known only as “the Block”. The area has been unpopular with the local and state governments, but actually has quite a history for Baltimore movie theatres. One of Baltimore’s more popular movie houses was at 418 East Baltimore Street, the Rivoli Theatre.

Opened prior to 1912 as the Wilson Theatre. In 1920 it was enlarged and reopened as the Rivoli Theatre on January 3, 1921. It operated until 1954, when the theatre portion was torn down for a parking garage. The facade survived for years and was incorporated into “the Bloc”, but in the 1990’s, half of the 400 block of East Baltimore Street, including the facade of the Rivoli Theatre was torn down to make way for a government building.

Nothing left of a bygone favorite movie theatre.

Contributed by Charles Van Bibber

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

MarkA on December 5, 2005 at 9:09 am

Interesting, Lost Memory. Wasn’t the Moller replaced by a Kimball (per Headley’s book, Exit?

intune on February 23, 2007 at 8:34 am

At the age of 15, William Sima became the musical director at the Wilson Theatre. He was quoted as saying “I always wanted to be a director … When I was a small boy, I’d forget to watch the show but would watch the orchestra dirctor instead.”(Shipmate, 1942) Sima became the second leader (assistant) of the United States Naval Academy Band in 1918 and its leader in 1933.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 13, 2015 at 1:36 pm

Prior to an expansion in 1920, the Rivoli was called the Wilson Theatre. Here is an item about the project from the May 1, 1920, issue of The American Contractor:

“Theater (Wilson, int. alt. & side add.): $400,000. 1 sty. 85x145. 418 E. Balto st. Archt. E. G. Blanke, 213 Calvert st. Mech. engr. not selected. Owner Wilson Theater Co., H. W. Wonders, on prem. Plmg. let to Herr Bros., Lexington bldg. Elec. wiring let to Kingsbury S. Macmuiss Elec. Co., 213 N. Cal st. Not started.”
The Wilson Theatre was in operation prior to 1912, when the January issue of the trade union publication Typographical Journal ran this item:
“For two seasons the Wilson theater, on East Baltimore street, was on the unfair list of the federation of labor. This season the new management employs union performers, union stage employes and union orchestra, and deserves the patronage of all union laboring men and their families. This theater is one of the prettiest and coziest little theaters in Baltimore and the price of admission is always the same, and the courtesy shown the public is much better than at some of the other houses.”
The Wilson Theatre was mentioned quite a few times in The Moving Picture World around 1916, when its manager, Guy L. Wonders, was President of the Maryland Exhibitors League.

rivest266 on January 30, 2017 at 4:28 pm

January 2nd, 1921 grand opening ad in the photo section. It opened to the public on the 4th.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 30, 2017 at 10:22 pm

The Rivoli had two entrances; one on Baltimore Street, and the other facing War Memorial Plaza on Fayette Street. This photo uploaded to our photo page by elmorovivo shows the Fayette Street entrance, while this photo uploaded by Granola shows the Baltimore Street entrance.

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