August 29, 2021
Mosaic Church opened the Rialto Theatre’s doors to the public for the first time in over a year. They have taken the time during the pandemic to do a major interior renovation. Friends of The Rialto was not involved in the process in any way, so this is the first time we have seen it, and want to share with you some of the changes made.While this is a dramatically different look, it appears that they followed the guidelines set forth by the approved HSR (Historic Structures Report). The vast majority of changes were made in a reversible way, so some future tenant or owner could change paint colors, uncover and restore original plaster textures and details, and reinstall the raked (sloped) seating. The level floor was set up with folding chairs so the potential for using the Rialto for theatre or movies is there. In fact, the leadership approached me before the opening ceremony and suggested we meet soon to discuss collaboration. They are excited to open the Rialto for the community, we just need to figure out how that would work and what kind of programming they would be open to.
A few weeks later, Escott O. Norton, founder of the Friends of the Rialto, met with the Mosaic Church leadership to discuss our goals to help activate fhe Rialto Theatre. They told us they were open to outside organizations doing events in the Rialto, as long as the details could be worked out.
If you would like to do an event at The Rialto, please CONTACT US and we will connect you to the right person at Mosaic.
While we are disappointed that a more historic color palette wasn’t used, there are some important improvements, including new and additional restrooms, new lighting positions, and new exit stairs from the balcony.
March 10, 2021
South Pasadena Public Library presented a behind-the-scenes look at the historic Rialto Theatre's recent restoration via livestream.
This was one of the Library’s most successful and well reviewed livestream presentations, even with the occasional technical glitch!
A recording of the presentation can be viewed on YouTube HERE.
(Original photo by Brendan Durrett)
The neon is being reinstalled on the Rialto Marquees! It will take a few more days to complete, but when they are done not only will the 1940s marquee light up, the large letters on the 1925 vertical marquee are going to work again too! Some of the 95-year-old wiring in the vertical sign was so brittle that it needed to be replaced. Most of the glass from the vertical was damaged so new replica glass was created. Not many people know that in 1925 there was no neon, the letters were lit with incandescent bulbs. The neon came in later, probably in the 1940s "modernizing".
One of the last elements of the exterior renovation is the tiled areas under the storefront windows. Originally these areas were all tile, and we know from investigation that they were a random pattern using multiple colors of Batchelder field tiles, but they have been covered for decades by paint and brick veneer. First we brought in tile historian Brian Kaiser, who shared the history of Batchelder tiles of this era, and advised us on the best way to preserve and restore these tiles. At the urging of Friends of the Rialto, the Rialto owners hired South Pasadena mason Clifford C. Douglas to carefully remove the remaining Batchelder tiles and clean them. This album details the process.
The scaffolding is coming down! We can now see what the Rialto looked like in 1925, with the original color scheme restored! Thanks to the owners for working with Friends of the Rialto to make sure the colors were historically accurate!
May 28, 2020
Rialto Wurlitzer Update! The Rialto's organ console has been safely moved to Rosales Organ Builders in Los Angeles. Friend and organ restoration expert Kevin R. Cartwright will be systematically restoring the console to working order, while preserving the handprinted casework. There is no current plan to reinstall the organ, but Friends of the Rialto will continue to push for the return and restoration of this rare instrument to the Rialto Theatre where it belongs!
May 22, 2020
Here's the latest on the exterior renovation of the Rialto. Escott Norton with Friends of the Rialto has been consulting with the owners on the color selection process.
After a detailed microscopic color analysis of the building was performed by KC Restoration, we presented the findings to the owners and then to the city. Based on the findings we determined the original colors for the stucco, trim, and the 2 original colors for the blade sign. These were approved by the city and work commenced. We then brought KC Restoration back to take samples from the lower marquee, which was installed about 15 years after the Rialto opened. By this time the building and blade sign had been repainted multiple times so we were not sure whether the lower marquee colors would work. According to the microscopic color analysis the lower marquee has also been repainted at least 10 times! We recommended that the first 2 colors be used on the lower marquee, a decision supported by the oldest photo we have of the lower marquee when it was pretty new. It shows 2 different shades, with the vertical bands being a lighter shade.
We are very excited to see the exterior getting the attention it deserves after decades of neglect. Thanks to the owners for doing this work, and collaborating with Friends of the Rialto to make sure the colors are historically accurate!
April 24, 2020
We focus on the architecture of the Rialto and other historic theatres all the time, but the real human value of a theatre is measured by the shared experience, coming together with friends and family to watch a show! Just look at the faces of these kids waiting in line in front of the Rialto!
Right now we are not able to go to the theatre and other group events for the health and safety of the entire community. I hope that when the restrictions are lifted we flock back to theatres and support the arts TOGETHER!
- Escott O. Norton, founder - Friends of the Rialto
March 12, 2020
COVID-19 should be taken seriously. There is good advice out there and also quite a lot of panic and bad advice. Please use reason, follow advice from qualified sources, and take care of yourselves and others.
In addition to those whose health is at risk, many people will be affected financially. Jobs will be lost, businesses will shut down, potentially forever. Cancelling some public events is a necessary step to take in the short term, many theatres and sporting events have already done so and I expect more will soon. This will be disastrous for smaller arts organizations and small businesses. Here is something you can do to help:
1. If you were planning to buy a ticket to a theatre or special event and decide not to go, please donate the equivalent amount (or more) to the arts organization of your choice. They still have to pay the bills whether the show goes on or not. Your support could mean the difference between surviving or closing.
2. If you are avoiding going to your favorite small local business in the short term, consider buying gift cards or gift certificates now, the income will help get your favorite local business through these trying times.
3. For the theatres that remain open, support them by buying a ticket for a show or movie. Most theatres staying open have put in place more stringent sanitizing practices, and with less people in attendance you can keep your distance. The W.H.O. recommends keeping 1 meter distance, which is not too hard. Click here for more info: World Health Organization
Stay safe and healthy, we can get through this together!
-Escott O. Norton, founder - Friends of the Rialto
January 15, 2020
Exciting News! After many decades of neglect the Rialto is finally getting the attention she deserves! Scaffolding is up on the exterior as the Rialto owners start repairs on plaster and molding, fixing original windows, and a new paint job to return it to the original colors! On the interior, the tenant has pulled the permits to remodel the lobby, which mostly involves adding an ADA accessible bathroom in what was last used as the concessions back room, but was originally a bathroom.
Friends of the Rialto is working to insure the original colors are brought back for the exterior, and working with both owners and tenants to make sure all historic elements are protected, preserved, and restored. Thanks to the Shomofs (owners) and Mosaic Church (tenants) for working with Friends of the Rialto to accomplish a successful restoration!
December 25, 2019
This is LONG overdue and good news for the Rialto Theatre! In short, the lease with Mosaic has been renegotiated so that the owners will be responsible for restoring the exterior and leasing the retail spaces, and Mosaic will be responsible for interior work only, some of it to be done by the owner’s team. This means restoration work will start much sooner!
It’s been difficult getting Mosaic to commit to allowing more non-church use of the Theatre, so we hope this change in responsibilities will help them do as they have said publicly. Friends of the Rialto will continue to work with all parties during the restoration and activation of the Rialto!
October 22 2017
Mosaic Church is now operating services every Sunday, and has a Conditional Use Permit allowing use during the week. We are working closely with the owners and Mosaic Church to make sure all work done on the Rialto is historically accurate. We are please that so far, the current tenants of the Rialto Theatre are determined to do the right things for the theatre. Meanwhile, Friends of the Rialto is in the process of restoring the 35mm film projectors so that we can once again present movies in the Rialto! Stay tuned for new of this exciting restoration effort! For the very latest news, sign up for our mailing list, and follow us on Facebook!
I know the rumor has been out there for a while now, and while there is still no official announcement from the church, I can confirm that Mosaic Church has signed a lease with the owners of the Rialto Theatre. I do not know specific details, I do know that they are leasing the entire building including retail spaces and the old apartments above.
I have been in communication with them since December when I gave them their first tour. At the time they expressed interest in working together in some way. We are hoping to be as involved as possible with this next stage in the Rialto’s story.
Friends of the Rialto has presented the Mosaic Church team and the Rialto’s owners with a proposal to consult with them during the restoration phase, and to help program the theatre on days and nights when the church is not using it. Our goal is to ensure the Rialto is protected and restored as accurately as possible, and eventually used for public events as much as possible.
While I admit to being sad that our plan did not receive the major financial support we had hoped for, we are VERY grateful to the donors who gave what they did. Your donations will be held for future restoration projects at the Rialto. Each and every one of you is a special Friend of the Rialto. Thank you.
We are also grateful to the Rialto Theatre’s owners for allowing us complete access to the Rialto, giving us more than a year to look for that support, present fundraising events, etc. Our primary mission as advocates for the theatre does not stop here, if anything, it is even more important to keep a vigilant eye on all things happening at the Rialto.
We look forward to continue working with the owners, and hope that a positive collaboration with Mosaic Church can be established so that together we can bring the Rialto Theatre back to life!
Escott O. Norton
Founder and President, Friends of the Rialto