When we first decided to start a community arts center, we were searching for a name. We finally settled on The Rialto. We felt that it brought the right connotation and spirit to what we were trying to do. There have been several great theaters with the Rialto name, and we are proud to be even a small part of that tradition.
Named after an area in Venice, Italy, the Rialto there is home to a bustling marketplace and greengrocer. As opposed to the more elaborate locations in Venice, the Rialto has always been known as a place for the common man. Its iconic bridge also appealed to architects and helped influence the design of many a theater’s exteriors. When associated with the theater, name Rialto mostly conjures up a picture of wondrous entertainment in luxurious surroundings: thick red velvet curtains pulling back to reveal a performance stage with a full orchestral complement, fancy balcony seating, stone archways, gilded fixtures, popcorn machines, and ushers in uniforms with red caps. Nowadays, the name can be found on many buildings, from the old and worn down to a shining office tower.
In California, there is a Rialto in South Pasadena. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. Once a gorgeous theater with an orchestra pit and balcony seating, this Rialto is hopefully going to be reinstated to its former glory. The other California Rialto most people think of can be found in Los Angeles has had several remodels. The interior does not resemble the opulent theaters of yesteryear like it did when it originally opened,when they showed a screening of the silent film, The Garden of Allah. It’s now an Urban Outfitters, but at least the 1930’s Art Deco marquee remains.
Another prestigious Rialto theater can be found in Tucson, Arizona. Opened in 1920, this Rialto had an incredible pipe organ that was played to accompany the popular silent films of the age. Nowadays, The Rialto in Tucson is home to a variety of concerts, plays, comedians, parties, and fundraisers. There is another Rialto in Portland, Oregon. It is a bar and poolroom, with off-track betting and horse track memorabilia. Raleigh, NC also has a Rialto theater, which originally opened in 1942. Although it was recently renovated, it still possesses the original performance stage. Now mostly a movie theater, it is known for its nearly weekly showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.In addition to theaters and buildings in this country, the name Rialto is known around the world. There is a skyscraper in Melbourne, Australia called The Rialto (or the Rialto Towers) and it is the tallest office building in the Southern Hemisphere. There are movie theaters with the Rialto name that stretch all the way from Illinois to New Zealand.
Our humble little Rialto is a far cry from some of the historic landmarks of times gone by, but I think that we do the name proud.