Rialto Theatre

1023 Fair Oaks Ave.
    | map

South Pasadena, CA  91030

The News: After a long period of deliberation, the building's owners announced in January 2015 that it's going to Izek Shomof, a downtown L.A. developer. He's looking for tenants but, according to the L.A. Times he "hopes to turn it into an entertainment venue that could include a bar and screenings of old movies." The L.A. Times had the news in a January 9, 2015 story by Frank Shyong.

Website: friendsoftherialto.org | Friends on Facebook | Friends Newsletter

Opened: October 17, 1925. On the screen for the opening was Reginald Denny in "What Happened To Jones."

The Rialto was a project of  C.L. Langley who also built the Alex in Glendale. His empire was absorbed into West Coast Theatres with Langley as president.  Later the firm would become Fox West Coast.  

Successor companies to Fox West Coast operating the Rialto include National General Corporation and Mann Theatres. Landmark Theatres was the last operator.

Architect: Lewis A. Smith. See our Blogspot posts for more by the prolific Mr. Smith, who did many projects for Fox West Coast.

Seating: 1,200

The 2014 sale: The building was sold in December 2014 to Izek Shomof, a downtown L.A. developer. Repairs to the facade, one of the city's concerns about the building, are to begin in early 2015. Mr. Shomof is looking for tenants and, according to the L.A. Times, he "hopes to turn it into an entertainment venue that could include a bar and screenings of old movies."

The L.A. Times had the news in a January 9, 2015 story by Frank Shyong. The South Bay Daily Breeze also had a story about the developer and his plans for the building.

Sale price was undisclosed. The building went on the market in June 2014. It's unknown if the deal included a buyout of the lease that Landmark Theatres still had on the theatre that ran until 2024.

Newmark Grubb Knight Frank represented the Jebbia family for the sale of the building. A NGKF June 2014 press release outlined the (unpriced) offering. Just the fact that the family owning the theatre had finally put it on the market was a big step toward the neglected building's rehabilitation.

The October 2014 news was that, as Curbed LA said, "Quentin Tarantino is Not Buying the Rialto Theatre in South Pas." There was almost a deal but he backed out (due to an upcoming filming commitment) before closing. The South Pasadena Review's November 1 story "Tarantino Backs Out of Purchasing Rialto" had more background.

A July 2014 L.A. Times story by Frank Shyong "Will South Pasadena's Rialto Theatre Rise Again?" discussed the concern of local residents who fear it may end up as something other than a theatre. Among several purchase offers submitted at the time of the story was one from Vintage Cinemas, operators of the Vista and Los Feliz theatres.

In a June 2014 story, the South Pasadena Review reported  "South Pasadena's Rialto Theatre to Go on Sale."  In a Review story a few days earlier "Some Movement on Rialto Theatre" Bill Glazier discussed a community meeting where the mayor talked about getting together with the owners to discuss the future of the building.

Curbed L.A. ran a June 2014 story about the "crumbling Rialto" being for sale. The Italian media outlet il Post gave the Rialto a great photo spread as well.

The Rialto had ceased regular operations in August 2007 when Landmark Theatres said patronage wasn't sufficient to pay the bills. After they abandoned regular programming, the theatre had been open only for sporadic rentals. And it started deteriorating.

In March 2010 it got red tagged due to various fire code deficiencies. The city wants sprinklers, smoke detectors and a fire alarm control panel -- none of which were required when the theatre last operated.

Although Landmark was no longer operating the theatre, at the time of the 2014 sale they still held the remainder of a 99 year lease on the theatre that was executed in 1924. Dominic Jebbia had purchased the building in the 1930s and it had been held in a trust for the family members that are his heirs. The building has been on the National Register since 1978.

Earlier Development / Restoration Plans:  The Pasadena Star News ran an August 2013 story about the City of South Pasadena and the Chamber of Commerce again weighing the options to rescue the decaying theatre. Larry Wilson offered a "moderately radical" plan for a revived theatre in an August 2013 article in the Los Angeles Daily News.

The building's vertical sign had been under attack in 2012 by the City's Building Department as being unsafe. It got a reprieve and was fixed up by leaseholder Landmark Theatres. Support for the sagging marquee was also upgraded. But the L.A. Times in a 2012 story asked "What's next?"

There had long been talk about possible development deals either incorporating the theatre or on adjacent property. Torrance based developer Decoma had a project designed but it got aborted after financing dried up in 2009.  The City of South Pasadena then went looking for a new developer but nothing happened. David Fonseca did a story in October, 2010 on the blog South Pasadena Patch: "City Seeks New Partner For Redevolpement Project."

The project, as it was then designed, did not include the Rialto. But the city hoped a renewed interest in the area would be a first step toward rehabilitating the theatre building.

The Rialto in the movies:  The theatre is also featured in "Kentucky Fried Movie" (1977) and "Nightmare on Elm Street 4" (1988).  See the Rialto Theatre in the Movies set on the Friends of the Rialto Facebook page for lots of stills.

Tim Robbins leaving a show at the Rialto in Robert
Altman's "The Player" (Fine Line, 1992). He's gone to
look for a writer he thinks is harassing him.
larger view

A look at Tim Robbins and Vincent D'Onofrio
 in the Rialto lobby in "The Player."
larger view

Tim Robbins walking in front of the Rialto after
the showing of "The Bicycle Thief" in "The Player."
larger view

Bad things happen in the parking lot north of the
Rialto in "The Player."  Don't look in the puddle. 
larger view

We see a lot of the Rialto at the beginning of Wes
Craven's "Scream 2" with Neve Campbell, Courteney
Cox, Leiv Schreiber and Jada Pinckett Smith.
(Dimension Films, 1997).
larger view

A look at the marquee in "Scream 2." Jada Pinckett
Smith is going to have a bad moviegoing experience.
"Blame it on the movie."
 larger view

Not quite the Rialto auditorium in "Scream 2." 
We're actually at the Vista Theatre for the interiors.
larger view

"Scream 2" also used the Variety Arts Theatre
downtown for scenes near the end of the film.

More information: See the Rialto page on Cinema Treasures for lots of history, recent news and links to additional photos.  Also see their page listing other theatres designed by Lewis A. Smith.

South Pasadena Online has a history of the Rialto. Legends of America has a story about the alleged ghosts at the Rialto.  See Laurie Allee's article in South Pasadena Patch for a discussion of the problems surrounding the Rialto.

And there's now a whole website devoted to the Rialto: RialtoSouthPasadena.com

Looking north on Fair Oaks.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010

about photos from other
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    Draumatrauma on Photobucket   

Here's a great shot of the lady above the proscenium.
It's in Dramatrauma's Rialto 2008 set on Photobucket.
 full size view

A nice view of the plaster work above an exit. 
full size view

A detail of the mural on the lobby landing.
 full size view

And there are 100 more views in the set!

    L.A. Public Library Collection   


A shot while the theatre was playing "My Dinner
 With Andre" from the Library's collection.
  full size view

Also in the collection:
| 1945 view -- "You Came Along"  |
| 1984 view -- "Unofficial Theatre" |

    L.A. Times   


Los Angeles Times photographer Annie Wells
 went on a Vintage Movie Palaces tour with members
 of the League of Historic American Theatres in 2006.

In the Photo Gallery of 24 pictures numbers
 1 through 5 are nice shots of the Rialto.

Vix also comments on this tour
on History, Los Angeles County

An organ grille view by Irfan Khan, one of 7 photos with
"Will South Pasadena's Rialto Theatre Rise Again?,"
 a July 2014 L.A. Times story by Frank Shyong.
A look at the balcony lobby by Irfan
Khan from the July 2014 story.
Some of the same photos from the 2014 article
appeared again in a January 2015 story by Mr. Shyong:
 "South Pasadena's historic Rialto Theatre sold to downtown developer."

    R Lader on Flickr   


An interior shot posted by R Lader.
It's a view from the 1968 ATOE
Los Angeles conclave program.
 full size view

    Messy Nessy Chic   


The Parisian blogger got this story together in record
speed after it was announced in June 2014 that the building
was for sale. "For Sale: Who wants to Buy an Endangered
1920s LA Movie Theatre?" has a fine selection of photos and
lots of information. This look at the boxoffice lead the article.
full size view

A vintage look at the Rialto's lobby.
The lobby photo comes from Friends of the Rialto.

.  An auditorium view credited to Lorne Thomas.
full size view

The auditorium photo also appears as part of a slide-
show with an article in the South Pasadena Review.

    Online Archive of California   

A c.1970 view of the Rialto. It's from the
South Pasadena Public Library collection.
full size view

    Ken Roe on Flickr   


A great view toward the back of the Rialto auditorium
taken by Mr. Roe
in 2008. It's from his wonderful
 Movie Theatres USA set.

full size view

A terrific look at the proscenium by Mr. Roe.
full size view

    Tahoe 61 on Flickr   


A view of the organ grille area at the Rialto
 by Tahoe 61 in his Rialto Theatre set.
 full size view 

A view of the front of the balcony by Tahoe 61.
   full size view    

More by Tahoe 61:
| lobby | under balcony |
| exterior side | marquee at night |

The facade of the Rialto Theatre.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010

[ click on any of these photos to enlarge ]

A nice look at the view of the neon.

photo: Mark Peacock - 2009

See Mark's Vintage Theatres photo set for lots more great work.
Also visit his blog: On the Road With Mark Peacock

The view from across Fair Oaks Ave.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010

The boxoffice. 

photo: Bill Counter - 2010


A look into the lobby.

photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014

We're looking straight in from the entrance
doors -- and on into the auditorium.


The vista across the Rialto's auditorium.

photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014

Thanks, Hunter! 

More Rialto photos from Hunter appear on the
Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation Facebook page:

The LAHTF is actively involved in the study and preservation
of the vintage theatres in the L.A. area. The group frequently
supports events and offers tours of the buildings.

| group Facebook page | official FB page

The front of the auditorium.

photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014

The beast at the top of the proscenium.

photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014

The balcony view.

photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014

Stage right: the 1925 vintage
wire guide counterweight system.

photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014

Keep up with Hunter's explorations:
| the Facebook page | hunterkerhart.com | on Flickr |

| Hunter's photography blog: South on Spring |

    Berger Conser Architectural Photography   


A dazzling look at the auditorium from
Berger Conser Architectural Photography.
full size view

The photo is from their great book "The Last
Remaining Seats: Movie Palaces of Tinseltown."
more on the book

Also visit Robert Berger's website:

    Friends of the Rialto   

friendsoftherialto.org | facebook.com/FriendsoftheRialto

A 30s view of the Rialto interior in the
Historic Rialto photos album on the Friends
 of the Rialto Facebook page. It was added by
Escott O. Norton and is from his friend Phyllis.
full size view

A 1977 look up from under one of the
 proscenium boxes by Len Crriffe.
A portfolio of nine of Mr. Cariffe's photos of
the Rialto appears on the Facebook page for the
 South Pasadena High School Alumni Association.

A lovely look across the auditorium from
the Friends of the Rialto Facebook page.
A sidewall mural detail. The photo appears
 on the FOTR Facebook page.
full size view | on FB/LATheatres

A fine bit of sidewall ornament.

The view up toward some of the plasterwork
at the proscenium and house left organ grille.
 It's a photo on the organization's Facebook page.
A 2014 look into the orchestra pit
 from the FOTR Facebook page.
full size view

Up toward the grid stage left -- a 2014
photo from the FOTR Facebook page.
full size view

A 2014 look at the 1925 dimmerboard
on the FOTR Facebook page.

The basement dressing room corridor
-- and a trap overhead. It's a A 2014 photo
on the FOTR Facebook page.
full size view

Also on the FOTR Facebook page:

    Lin Rhys on Facebook   


A look at the exterior of the forlorn Rialto by Lin Rhys.
full size view

A look up at the signage by Lin Rhys
full size view

    Rialto South Pasadena   


An interior view by Jeffrey Burke. It's on the site's
nice 1924/1925 page, which discusses lots of
Pasadena theatre history.
larger view

The site includes lots of Rialto Theatre lore
including ads and programs.

A wonderful view toward the rear of the
house by Mr. Burke.
 larger view

See the site's photo gallery page for many
more views by Mr. Burke as well as several
historic exterior shots.

    South Pasadena Patch   


Laurie Allee has done a neat 2 minute video about the
Rialto with clippings and vintage photos.  It's part of a
2011 article "The Rialto: A Landmark of Cinema History."

The article also includes an interesting
history of the building.