Rialto Theatre

1085 Flatbush Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11226

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Rialto..Brooklyn NY

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Rialto Theatre first opened on March 19, 1916 with Harry Lonsdale in “The Ne’re Do Well”. It was one of the first “luxury” theatres built by A.H. Schwartz, many years before he started the Century Circuit. As far as I know, the Rialto Theatre never presented more than movies, but during the silent era it employed a small orchestra and organist to play during the programs and intermissions. The Rialto Theatre’s success caused Schwartz to build a very similar Rialto Theatre in Jamaica, Queens, in 1918, with R. Thomas Short again as architect. In 1948 some remodelling was done to the plans of architect John J. McNamara.

Century Theaters operated the Brooklyn Rialto Theatre until 1976, after which the theatre was converted into a church.

The Jamaica Rialto Theatre was sold in the early-1930’s and re-named the Savoy Theatre, which operated into the 1980’s before being demolished for the re-development of Jamaica’s business and shopping district.

Contributed by Warren G. Harris

Recent comments (view all 34 comments)

superty3
superty3 on September 8, 2008 at 7:03 pm

I visited the Rialto many times during the sixties. I remember seeing West Side Story at night. With my mom. Who worked across the street at Henry’s ice cream parlor. I must have been around 8 0r 9 at the time. It was a very big deal. I remember her saying the parlor would get real busy when the show let out. Regarding the battle of the bands site. that would be at the Midwood @Flatbush and Glenwood Rd. I saw many battles there. the place was called the Midwood Terrace. It usually featured 4 or 5 bands set up around the floor with the top band set up on the main stage. It really wasn’t so much a battle, more like a talent show. I know they had some pretty big acts like the Vagrants featuring Leslie West, Constant Changes which morphed into Alive & Kicking It was a great place to view the local talent.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on November 19, 2008 at 12:46 pm

Here’s a new link to an image of the Rialto Theatre at its grand opening in March, 1916. Publicity claimed it was the largest purpose-built cinema in Brooklyn up to that time, with 2,000 seats. The construction costs were estimated at $125,000 (about $2.5 million today): View link

martinreck
martinreck on August 2, 2009 at 5:03 pm

I believe the Rialto did more than just show movies. I remember seeing Carmen Miranda in vaudeville there around 1948-9.

GaryCohen
GaryCohen on January 3, 2010 at 7:55 pm

I remember my father taking us to see “Thunderball” at the Rialto after the original theater we went to, the Kingsway, was sold out. The excitement surrounding the release of this 4th Bond film was incredible: far more excitement than the mania surrounding the release of “Batman” in 1989 or “The Dark Knight” 2 years ago.
The Rialto got a lot of United Artists films. I remember seeing “The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming” and the Beatles in “Let It Be” there. It was a nice theater but I do not remember anything distinctive about it, unlike the beautiful Loews Kings which was about 2 blocks away. I also preferred the Albemarle which was about 3 blocks away.
I remember once eating at Henrys Ice Cream parlor,which was across the street, before seeing something at the Rialto. This nice little restaurant which used to put stuffed animals in its windows to celebrate the seasons, holidays, etc. held out a very long time as a nice middle-class neighborhood deteriorated into a dangerous area with hoodlums hanging out on the street, day or night. My express bus used to pass down Flatbush Avenue on the way to Manhattan. I marvelled at how long Henrys held out. Then about 15 years ago, they threw in the towel and Henrys was gone. The last time I passed that way, it had been converted into a Jamaican restaurant. Henrys joined the Rialto, Loews Kings,Albemarle, the Astor and the Kenmore as remnants of a better time on Flatbush Avenue.

CConnolly1
CConnolly1 on February 4, 2011 at 6:42 am

View link

Photo of the exterior, 1916.

jinchelsea
jinchelsea on November 13, 2011 at 10:38 am

My dad worked for Century Theatre throughout the late 1950s and 1960s, and I spent many happy hours in the dark throughout my childhood and teen years. He managed the Rialto from the early 1960s for several years (I was in high school at Erasmus, and we lived on the corner of Ocean and Caton). Around 1961 they tried running old movies at a discounted price (the only one I remember is “Meet Me in St Louis”), but this was years before the ever-growing interest in old films, and no one came, so they gave up this policy very quickly. I used to bring my friends or my “dates” on a Saturday night for free movies, and often afterwards we would head back down Flatbush Avenue to Jahn’s ice cream parlor (or into Garfield’s, to laugh at the “old” people hanging out all night, sipping a cup of coffee). Glad to see that the theatre is still standing…

robboehm
robboehm on November 13, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Interesting photo from 2010. Church is French not Spanish. Didn’t realize Century originated the Silver Screen Classic concept which is so popular with the General Amusment Multiplexes. When I lived in Farmingdale the classic usually sold out and it was in the largest auditorium.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on May 26, 2012 at 9:56 am

Here’s a 1980s tax view of the Rialto as church: lunaimaging

stavros8842
stavros8842 on October 8, 2013 at 11:25 am

i worked at the rialto thearter in the early 70’s. I remember we had the Sting sold out every weekend had ticket holder lines. also american graffiti. had over 2,000 seats.

Orlando
Orlando on October 20, 2014 at 10:24 am

I was in the former Rialto this past Saturday night and for a service on Sunday morning. The enterior is in great shape. I’d say 85% intact. Stage curtains (waterfall type) are gone as is boxoffice. Otherwise stage procenium is now visible as are walls covered over by the removed drapery. The building is meticulous kept by the Eglise De Dieu staff members. The Century “spatter” carpeting does not exist anywhere in the building and the restrooms upgraded.

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