812 South Broadway,
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Built in 1917, Quinn’s Rialto Theatre was opened on May 28, 1917 by J.M. Quinn. Its first presentation was “The Garden of Allah”. The Neo-Classical style building had a central pediment on top of its facade. Inside the auditorium, all seating was provided on a single level. It was equipped with a Robert Morton theatre organ. The Rialto Theatre was purchased by Sid Grauman in 1919 and it quickly became part of his growing empire. It was remodeled by architect William Lee Woollett, and the Robert Morton organ was replaced by a Wurlitzer 2 manual, 7 ranks instrument which had been transferred from the Million Dollar Theatre, also operated by Sid Grauman.
Further modernization took place in 1923, and again in the 1930’s, when architect William Lee Woollett designed a new marquee with a spectacular neon display and an Art Deco style pay box. After Grauman, the Rialto Theatre was taken over by Paramount-Publix Theatres, followed by Fox West Coast Theatres and then Sol Lesser’s Principal Theatres Corp. of America in 1941. From 1945, Metropolitan Theatres chain took over.
The Rialto Theatre continued to show first run films for decades, eventually switching to Spanish-language films in the 1970’s to suit the changing neighborhood. In 1987, the auditorium interior was renovated to meet modern earthquake stress standards, and new seating, carpets and house curtains were fitted, but the Rialto Theatre was closed in October 1988.
Sadly, like many of the area’s theatres, its lobby is now home to small retail shops. Its auditorium sits quietly waiting, perhaps in vain, to reopen. And its large marquee remains blank.
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