Rialto Theatre (Tucson)
The Rialto Theatre, completed in 1920, is located in one of the more urban districts of downtown Tucson, across the street fromClub Congress. It bears much similarity to the neighboring Hotel Congress, being built in the same year and by the same contractors. Primarily holding music concerts from all genres, the Rialto hosts other shows and events as well; from dance, performance, and occasional film screenings. Approximately 150 events occur at the Rialto annually, with reported attendance of more than 100,000 patrons.
Backstory and Context
First conceived of in the early-to-mid-1910s, The Rialto Theatre was built by William Curlett & Son jointly with the neighboring Hotel Congress located across the street. Upon its opening, The Rialto Theatre was one of Tucson's first movie theaters, playing primarily silent films per the time period. In addition, the theater was host to Vaudeville shows, another popular form of entertainment at the time. The first full-length film to play on the Rialto’s screen was "The Toll Gate."
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.
2004: Purchased by the City of Tucson.
1. "The Rialto Theatre," Official Website, accessed November 16, 2016.
2. "Event Calendar," Theatre website, accessed November 16, 2016.
3. "Events Photo Gallery," Theatre website, accessed November 16, 2016.
4. "Rialto: A History," Theatre website, (Includes a short video), accessed November 16, 2016.
5. "The Rialto Theatre Foundation," Theatre website, accessed November 16, 2016.
6. "National Register of Historic Places- Registration Form," Rialto Theatre, Paramount Theatre, 29 pages, NPS website, accessed November 16, 2016.
7. "National Register of Historic Places- Registration Form," Rialto Block; Rialto Building, 28 pages, NPS website, accessed November 16, 2016.
8. "Facebook Page," The Rialto Theatre/Tucson, Arizona, accessed November 16, 2016.
9. "Wikipedia Entry," Rialto Theatre (Tucson, Arizona), accessed November 16, 2016.
10. "Fox Tucson Theatre," the Clio entry, accessed November 16, 2016.
11. "The Rialto Theatre (Tucson): A Brief History," YouTube video (4:46 mins.), accessed November 16, 2016.