Friends of the

RIALTO

WELCOME! 

The Friends of the Rialto is an advocacy group dedicated to the preservation and revitalization of the beautiful Rialto Theatre in South Pasadena, California. .Please explore this site for more information on the Rialto Theatre’s history and current status. 


The Friends of the Rialto has multiple goals,  the most immediate is to advocate for preservation of the Rialto Theatre.  We are local residents, theatre lovers, historians, and preservationists who want to see this beautiful theatre brought back to life, and once again be a cultural and social center for the community.


HISTORY

The Rialto Theatre was designed by Lewis A. Smith, designer of dozens of movie palaces in Southern California. The Rialto opened on October 17, 1925. From the beginning the Rialto presented a combination of movies and live vaudeville,  and still has a fly-gallery, dressing rooms, orchestra pit, and a green room. 


TODAY

While the Rialto remains in remarkably original condition,  over the decades it has fallen into a state of disrepair.  After 70 years of continuous public screenings it closed in 2006, In June 2014 the Rialto was put up for sale and in January 2015 it was purchased by Izek Shomof. Mr. Shomof graciously allowed Friends of the Rialto 2 years to hold fundraising events.  While we were not able to raise substantial enough funds to sign a lease, we did demonstrate the capabilities of the Rialto Theatre, producing a live Broadway musical, a variety show, and movies screenings with live musical accompaniment.  In 2017 the owners signed a lease with Mosaic Church to use the Rialto Theatre for their meetings. Now, three years later, the Rialto is finally seeing some restoration efforts!

THE RIALTO WURLITZER ORGAN

The Rialto’s Mighty WurliTzer Organ, Opus 1142 was installed on August 27, 1925, and first performed for the public on Opening Night, October 17, 1925.  The Model 216  was used for decades to accompany silent movies and live acts on the Rialto Stage. The Rialto Wurlitzer is one of only twelve Model 215s ever built by the Rudolph WurliTzer Company in Tanawanda, New York. It was removed after a fire on October 17 1971. The instrument was sold and parts of it have traveled all over California. As far as we know there are parts of the Rialto WurliTzer in at least 6 different instruments. The Console itself changed hands at least 3 times before returning to South Pasadena. The South Pasadena Preservation Foundation displayed it in their museum in the Meridian Iron Works for almost a decade before donating it to Friends of the Rialto in 2016. Mark Herman with the Los Angeles Organ Company graciously stored the Console for us until May, 2020 when the Console was relocated to Rosales Organ Builders. Kevin Cartwright, a specialist in organ restoration plans to carefully work on the console until it can be eventually reinstalled in the Rialto Theatre.  Thank you Mark, and thank you Kevin!

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EVENTS 

produced by Friends of the Rialto

60th Anniversary Celebration!

On Oct 19, 1985, Friends of the Rialto produced our first show, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Opening of the Rialto Theatre. A vintage Kleig light could be seen from miles around, just like on opening night. Old fashions cares lined the street. Costumed ushers helped the overflow crowd to their seats to enjoy Robert Israel on the Organ, accompanying an audience sing-along of “Bicycle Built for Two”, then the feature, Lon Chaney’s 1925 classic, ”The Phantom of the Opera”. Displays included historic photos and rare collectables about Lon Chaney.         

South Pasadena Centennial

On June 4, 1988, Friends of the Rialto and Landmark Theatres partnered with the City of South Pasadena to celebrate the city’s Centennial.  Fair Oaks was closed off to traffic and the crowd gathered in front of the theatre to watch celebrities including ZsaZsa Gabor and her husband, Prince Frederic von Anhalt.

“90th Anniversary Gala!”


Saturday, December 17, 2015 at 7:30 PM   

Friends of the Rialto presented our first Annual Holiday Spectacular, a live variety show on the historic 91 year old Rialto Stage! Local arts groups and artists provided the entertainment for this family friendly show, which offered some “firsts” and surprises, including a Bollywood Dance Troupe, and Bagpipe and Drum Band, and the South Pasadena High School Drumline! All proceeds went to the Friends of the Rialto to support our efforts to restore and re-open the historic Rialto Theatre!

Vintage Valentine at the Rialto

On February 11, 2017, this Valentine’s Day themed event set in “The Golden Age of Hollywood” featured the Johnny Holiday Dance Orchestra, several retro style dance performances, as well as an exclusive screening of the classic Hollywood musical, Singin’ in the Rain. Costumed ushers and usherettes circulated during the party with candy, and long stem roses. This was a truly spectacular event. All proceeds benefited the nonprofit organizations Friends of the Rialto, and Friends of Rockhaven.

“The 12 Acts of Christmas!”

Saturday, December 17, 2016 at 7:30 PM   

Friends of the Rialto presented our first Annual Holiday Spectacular, a live variety show on the historic 91 year old Rialto Stage! Local arts groups and artists provided the entertainment for this family friendly show, which offered some “firsts” and surprises, including a Bollywood Dance Troupe, and Bagpipe and Drum Band, and the South Pasadena High School Drumline! All proceeds went to the Friends of the Rialto to support our efforts to restore and re-open the historic Rialto Theatre!

Showtune” live at the Rialto

On April 2, 2016 Conundrum Theatre Company in partnership with Friends of the Rialto presented Showtune, a live  musical revue celebrating the words and music of Jerry Herman, at the historic Rialto Theatre.


Hundreds of people of all ages attended to hear the live band in the orchestra pit and eight performers singing and dancing on the Rialto stage once again!

SHOWTUNE presented a retrospective of Herman’s phenomenal career in songwriting including familiar tunes from Herman’s most popular shows including Hello, Dolly!, Mame, and La Cage Aux Folles!



The cast included: Esme Brown, Jackie Brenneman, John Scott, Katrina Veldkamp, Lauren Otte, Mark Melo, Meggan Taylor, Richard Seymour.  SHOWTUNE was directed by Bryan Snodgrass, the Musical Director and Conductor was Ryan Luévano, and Choreographer was Toni Fuller.

The Band: Piano/Asst. Music Director: Michael Griffin,  Reed: Dan Gonda,  Cello: Melody Ynn,  Bass: Evan Vine,   Drums: Jeremy Stacy

Special thanks to Conundrum Theatre Company and volunteers from both Friends of the Rialto and the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation for your help.   Thanks also to the City of South Pasadena Planning, Public Works, Fire and Police Departments, Tom Reynolds and Misplaced Priorities, the South Pasadena Preservation Foundation, The Burbank Community YMCA, Old Oak Cellars Winery, and our audience for your support!



Very Special Thanks to the Shomof Family for graciously allowing us use of the Rialto Theatre for our fundraisers.

How to Help

VOLUNTEER

We would love to have you join our volunteer roster! In the past we have had work days, helped on our events, even held a “yard sale”. Who knows what will be needed next, so join the team!  We will contact you when the next need arises! SIGN UP HERE

SEARCH YOUR ATTIC

Are you local? Did you or a member of you family visit or work at the Rialto? We would love to see any photos or memorabilia related to the Rialto. If you are able to scan or photograph items and share them digitally, wonderful! We can also borrow and scan your items for you and return them to you. Or if you wish to donate your items to Friends of the Rialto we would gratefully accept them!

SHARE YOUR STORY

Since 1983 we have spoken to dozens of people, young and old, about their memories of the Rialto. What is your story? How old were you when you first went to the Rialto? What show or movie do you remember seeing at the Rialto? Any special memories of a date, party, or special event at the Rialto? Record your memories on video, audio or write them down and send them to us! Any questions?  Please contact us!

DONATE

Friends of the Rialto has no staff, all funds raised are put directly into our efforts to preserve and restore the Rialto. We’ve started restoring the 35mm projectors and CinemaSound system so that eventually we can present films on the Rialto screen again. We are also discussing other fundraising efforts that are not a top priorities of the tenant or owner, but that we feel are important.   Our IRS EIN is: 81-1375468 

Donations to a 501 (c)3 non-profit might be deductible, please check with your tax professional. If you would like to make a donation to support our efforts,  please contact us!


About Friends of the Rialto 

Founded in 1983 by Escott O. Norton, Friends of the Rialto is dedicated to the preservation and revitalization of the beautiful Rialto Theatre in South Pasadena, California. Originally a committee of the South Pasadena Preservation Foundation, Friends of the Rialto became a 501 (c)3 not-for-profit corporation in 2016.  Our Board of Directors consists of community members, theatre professionals, historians, and artists. 


If you would like to discuss joining our Board of Directors, or make a donation to support our efforts,  please contact us!


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