All of the grand historic old theatres in the downtown Broadway Theatre District have gone through dramatic changes in function.  Perhaps none so drastic as the Rialto Theatre at 810 S. Broadway which is now an Urban Outfitters store!

That can seem like a bit of a sad fate after the glory days of the grand old theater when it was built in 1917.  But like other theaters on Broadway it fell into decay after people began moving out of the city and into the suburbs. Oh, and before we move on, the Rialto Theatre in the Broadway Theatre Districts is not to be confused with the also historic Rialto Theater in South Pasadena.

History of the Rialto Theatre

Rialto theater
The Marquee of the Rialto Theatre was declared City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #472 in 1989

The Rialto opened on May 21, 1917 with a screening of the silent film The Garden of Allah. Two years later, Sid Grauman, creator of the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, took over the theatre, and renamed it Grauman’s Rialto.  Grauman operated the Rialto until 1924.

The Rialto was one of the earliest theatres to have stadium-style seating with no balcony.  Several remodels over the years almost completely changed the look of the building and, unfortunately, left almost none of the original interior elements place.

In the 1930s, the Rialto got a new marquee with a spectacular Art Deco neon display, one of the longest marquees on Broadway.  Fortunately, this dramatic marquee remains and was declared City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #472 in 1989.

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The Restoration of the Rialto Theater

Under the spirit of the Bringing Back Broadway initiative, Urban Outfitters announced plans to rehabilitate the theatre in 2013.  However, it was restored as a department store, not a theater.

While Urban Outfitters could be criticized for converting a theater into a clothing store, they did save the old theater which was in ruins.  Considering too that the Broadway Theatre District is not exactly the kind of place most Angelenos will head when shopping for new clothes, it took a real sense of civic responsibility to take on the restoration.

During restoration, Urban Outfitters gave a nod to the Rialto Theatre’s past.  The brick wall at the back of the store has been painted white to be a movie screen on which films are projected.

What can we say.  Next time you are down in the Broadway Theatre District, stop into the old Rialto Theater and buy a new pair of jeans!

fashion photographer