Rialto Theatre

41 Main Street,
Woonsocket, RI 02895

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This was a major theatre in downtown Woonsocket.

It was demolished many decades ago.

Contributed by Gerald A. DeLuca

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 14, 2005 at 4:02 am

According to a 1918 city directory, a theatre at 41 Main Street was called “Smith’s Theatre.” Smith’s must have become the Rialto. And with an address of 41 Main Street, it must have been across from the Nickel/Strand/Olympia which was 40 Main Street. It seems the Rialto ceased operating by the end of the 1950s.

In June of 1950 one program for the Rialto was the thriller “The Window” with young Bobby Driscoll, paired with the Gene Autry western “Riders in the Sky.”

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 16, 2005 at 5:02 pm

The Rialto was called Lynch’s theatre previous tio that name. Here is an old postcard showing it under that name.
This 1941 picture shows it with patrons waiting to get in. The letter “O” of RIALTO can be seen on the vertical marquee.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 26, 2005 at 12:30 am

From Woonsocket, Rhode Island – A Centennial History, 1888-1988:

World War II years at Woonsocket theatres

Throughout the war years, local movie houses supplied war-weary citizens with much-needed entertainment. At that time the city boasted six theaters: the New Park and the Stadium at Monument Square, the Bijou on lower Main Street, the Olympia and the Rialto in the Market Square area, and the Laurier in the Social district.

Movies not only boosted patriotism and morale, but they also were instrumental in raising millions of dollars in war bonds. Theatergoers were constantly reminded on newsreels and by screen actors that there was “a war on.”

These same movie houses were also used for bond rallies which included live stage acts. One such rally was held at the Stadium Theatre on June 13, 1944. Billed as the Fifth War Loan, the spectacle included a local war hero, Captain John T. Godfrey, and Woonsocket’s young Eileen Farrell, who music critics claimed was on the verge of a “brilliant operatic career.”

The most impressive of these bond rallies was that of September 9, 1943. This “Salute to Our Heroes” dinner was sponsored by the local theater managers headed by Benjamin Greenberg.

1950-1960

Those seeking an evening, or even an afternoon, at the movies had their choice of six movie theaters in 1950. The Olympia, Rialto, Bijou, and Stadium on Main Street; the New Park on North Main Street; and the Laurier on Cumberland Street. Most of these had matinees as well as evening performances, and all featured two movies—the double feature.

Competition for customers, plus the beginnings of competition by television, led theater owners to add inducements to their movie billings. At the Olympia, viewers could play “Honey” for cash prizes, while the New Park featured Silver Dollar Nights. At the Laurier, management appealed to the distaff side by offering china and silverware as gifts. Those who sought family entertainmnet could travel to the Rhode Island Auditorium in Providence to enjoy the Ice Capades for a price ranging from $1.25 to $3.80.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 24, 2005 at 7:18 am

Henry VIII banned from Woonsocket!
In July of 1944, the Rialto Theatre accepted without contest the city’s ban on The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), with Charles Laughton and Robert Donat, and withdrew without seeking a license the intended co-feature Catherine the Great (1934) with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Elizabeth Bergner. Both films were already about ten years old and both had received acclaim when shown in Providence and elsewhere. The Rialto manager at the time was Maurice Safner.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on August 24, 2005 at 8:34 am

The Rialto had 900 seats, according to the 1943 Film Daily Year Book.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 18, 2009 at 12:28 pm

From an article on Woonsocket theatres in The Providence Journal.

Copyright Providence Journal/Evening Bulletin May 16, 1985

“Shortly after the turn of the century, Lynch’s Theatre opened across the street [from the Olympia] at 41 Main. From its original vaudeville fare it switched to movies, changing to the Rialto, offering "Entertainment to Chase the Blues Away” and “Free! Beautiful! Five Piece Dinette Set. Bring your green coupons” (according to a 1944 ad)."

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 16, 2010 at 3:08 pm

An item in Boxoffice magazine, November 30, 1946 mentions the reopening of the Rialto after having been closed for nearly two years:

To Reopen at Woonsocket
WOONSOCKET, R.I. – The Rialto, 800-seater, is to reopen after being shuttered since February 1945. Maurice Saffner, owner, said the theatre’s policy would be reissues, and foreign films, with the house being managed by his son, Melvin Saffner.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 25, 2010 at 10:12 am

Italian films shown at the Rialto, item in Boxoffice magazine, August 28, 1948:

The Rialto, Woonsocket, R.I., will reopen September 20 with its regular policy of re-issues and first run foreign films. The house is owned by Maurice Safner but is the “baby” of his son Melvin, who is manager. The foreign element of Woonsocket is predominantly French (about 30,000) but the theatre has a large followig of Italians from surrounding cities and towns. Thus, such films as “Shoe-Shine,” “Panic” and “Open City” have been a good draw at the Rialto, which was closed for the summer months.

[Note: of the three titles mentioned, “Panic” is a French film, the other two are Italian. In Woonsocket, the Laurier often showed French films over the decades.]

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 28, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Rialto reopens for reissues plus French and Polish films. Item in Boxoffice magazine, November 16, 1946:

The Rialto, Woonsocket, R.I., owned and operated by Maurice Safner, closed since February 1945, will reopen this month. The house will play reissues and French and Polish films to cater to the large foreign element in the Mill city. Prices will be 50 and 16 cents. Melvin Safner, son of Maurice, who manages the Olympia across the street from the Rialto, will operate. The Safners now manage four houses, including the Laurier in Woonsocket and the Lafayette in Central Falls.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on February 8, 2011 at 12:06 pm

The Rialto Theatre had a fire in July 1924 which almost destroyed the theatre.
ARTICLE.

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