An economic recession in the early 1960s forced the closure of the theatre. It changed ownership and usage over the next several years: operating at various times as both a Spanish-language movie theater, and as a pornographic movie theater. Finally, in the early 2000s, its fortunes changed.
In 2004, the City of Tucson purchased the theatre as part of Rio Nuevo, a downtown revitalization project. The Rialto Theatre is now operated by a nonprofit organization, the Rialto Theatre Foundation, which has leased the theater from the Rio Nuevo District for 50 years. The Rialto Theatre is one of several historic theater and concert venues built along Congress Street, the others being Club Congress (directly across the street) and the newly renovated Fox Tucson Theatre several blocks to the west.
1920: Building completed
1929: Began showing talkies.
1929: Theatre sold to the movie chain Paramount-Publix
1948: Name changed from The Rialto to The Paramount
1963: Closed as a theatre and became a furniture storage facility
1971: Renamed the El Cine Plaza, a theatre showing only Spanish-language films.
1973: Became The Plaza, a pornographic theatre, which someone tried to burn down.
1978: Returned to the El Cine Plaza.
1984: A boiler explosion left the building vacant until 1995.
1995: Re-opened as a concert venue retaining its original name, the Rialto.
2003: Both The Rialto and The Paramount theatres were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.