Rialto Theatre

41 Main Street,
Woonsocket, RI 02895

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Rialto Theatre

Lynch’s Theatre was opened prior to 1914 when it was listed in the 1914-1915 edition of American Motion Picture Directory. This was a major theatre in downtown Woonsocket. By 1922 it had been renamed Smith’s Theatre. By 1926 it had been renamed Rialto Theatre. It was still open in 1955. but had closed by 1955.

It was demolished many decades ago.

Contributed by Gerald A. DeLuca

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

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.


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.

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.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 7, 2015 at 10:52 am

The Theatre Historical Society archive has the MGM Theatre Report for the Rialto; Card # 565. There is an exterior photo taken May 1941. Address is 41 Main St. Condition is Fair. It was showing MGM films. There were 577 orchestra seats and 223 balcony, total 800.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on April 15, 2019 at 9:46 am

The Rialto was previously known as Lynch’s Theatre.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 18, 2021 at 4:18 am

A previous name for this theatre was SMITH’S Theatre, per a 1922 directory.

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