The Rialto had a relatively short lifespan -- just fifty-seven years. It was torn down during that unfortunate time in the middle of the last century when most American cities were destroying their history with gleeful abandon. It wasn't even the only movie palace in Louisville to be razed. Even before the Rialto, the National and the Strand disappeared. To this day, over sixty years later, the site of the National is a parking lot. The Loew's and United Artists (a joint effort, it was initially advertised as such, but after a few years the United Artists portion was dropped from the ads only to return in the mid 1950s. At any rate, it enjoyed a much happier fate -- it is still in use as The Louisville Palace. The Rialto -- based on the Capitol Theatre in New York -- might well have been saved if it had been allowed to survive for another ten or twenty years and been used as a performing arts or concert venue. When it opened, it had the largest stage in Louisville, but when B.F. Keith began using it for its Vaudeville circuit, its stage was expanded to thirty-five feet in depth.
Step back now through the yearly posts and see what was playing at the Rialto from 1921 through 1968. Nearly all of the ads are now preserved for a quick scroll down memory lane. You'll see the Rialto begin as a movie palace, expand to include Vaudeville and then when the talkies came in, revert back to a movie palace. In the early 50s it widened its screen for CinemaScope and in the early 60s enlarged it even more for Cinerama and 70mm engagements. Towards the end it was a great reserved seat roadshow house, hosting such hugely successful films as How the West Was Won, Dr. Zhivago its biggest hit of all, The Sound of Music. The Rialto has been gone for nearly fifty years, but at least here you can begin to imagine what once was, when Louisville's downtown was vital and bustling.
November 16, 1919:
In October 1920 a lawsuit arose:
On April 24, 1921 the first bit of publicity for the Rialto surfaced when the organist was announced. Much more would soon follow.
May 1, 1921:
May 8, 1921:
May 10, 1921:
May 11, 1921:
May 12, 1921:
May 13, 1921:
May 15, 1921:
An extravagant, special Rialto section appeared. Here it is in its entirety: