121 W. Church Street,
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Previously operated by: Kerasotes Theatres
Architects: George Ramey
Previous Names: Theatre Belvoir
The Theatre Belvoir opened in 1915, in a turn-of-the-century building which formerly housed a store. The theatre was originally a legitimate house, seating somewhere between 850 and 900, containing two small balconies. In 1917, the name was changed to the Rialto Theatre, and a steel-and-glass marquee was added over the main entrance on Church Street.
The Rialto Theatre switched from live theatre to movies around 1920, and seven years later, the theatre showed its first sound feature, although the Rialto Theatre retained a house orchestra into the 1930’s.
In early-1938, the theatre closed for remodeling, thoroughly changing the appearance of the Rialto Theatre in a streamline Moderne style to the plans of architect George Ramey. One of its two balconies was taken out, and air-conditioning and a theatre organ were added. One local paper called the movie house’s new look “modernistic simplicity”. In fall of 1938, the theatre reopened with “Sing You Sinners” starring Bing Crosby.
In the late-1960’s, after decades of mostly first-run fare, the management of the Rialto Theatre switched to foreign films, which were shown for almost a decade, until the Rialto Theatre was taken over by the Kerasotes chain in 1978. Kerasotes' operation of the theatre lasted just three years, closing it in 1981.
From the early-to-mid-1980’s the theatre was leased by an organization called the Lighthouse which screened Christian movies. After this, the building sat vacant until 1993 when it was sold to a new owner who converted the former theatre space into a photography studio.
While the upper portion of the Rialto Theatre’s facade still retains much of its early-20th century appearance, the ground floor facade has been substantially altered. The building continues to be used for retail use today.
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