Rialto Theatre

709 South Street,
Boston, MA 02131

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 6, 2016 at 7:39 pm

Although it gives the location of the proposed theater as Washington Street, the mention of Charles J. Gorman as the owner, and the approximate size of the building being correct, suggests that this item from The American Contractor of November 13, 1915, could be about the Roslindale/Rialto Theatre:

“Moving Picture Theater: $30,000. 1 sty. & bas. 50x110. Washington st., Roslindale dist., Boston. Archt. Jos. D. McGinniss, 16 Arlington st. Owner Chas. J. Gorman, 17 Ardale st., Roslindale dist., will build by day labor. Work abt. to start. Face brk., artificial stone, struct. & orn. iron, gravel rfg., marble, mosaic.”
Issues of Christian Science Sentinel published in 1919 make reference to a November 16 lecture being held at “Gorman’s Theatre, South and Washington Streets, Roslindale.” Boston police records from January, 1919, include this item:
“On the application of Charles J. Gorman, President, Leslie A. Woollard was appointed a Special Police Officer for duty in and about the premises of Gorman’s Theatre located at 4199 Washington street for the year ending March 31. 1919.”
A police report from July, 1919, noting applications for permits to be in effect until August 1, 1920, included this item:
“C. J. Gorman’s Amusement Enterprises, Incorporated, by Charles J. Gorman, President, – to have exhibitions of moving pictures and vaudeville entertainments in Gorman’s Theatre located at 709 South street.”
From this, it looks as though the address 4199 Washington Street was changed to 709 South Street sometime between January and July, 1919. It is also clear that this house was in operation as either the Roslindale Theatre or Gorman’s Theatre as early as 1919, and probably 1918, which makes it much more likely that it was the project that The American Contractor said was about to get underway in November, 1915.

From the photo of the Rialto, it looks as though an adjacent, triangular lot on South Street was added at some point to create a new entrance building for the theater. That building does not appear to be part of the theater as it was shown in the 1924 map that was linked in an earlier comment.

DavidZornig on November 27, 2015 at 2:38 pm

1972 photo added courtesy of the Roslindale Historic Society.

DougC340 on December 16, 2014 at 4:28 am

I remember going to the Rialto theater in the 1940s. Back then, before we all had TV, the serial movies on Saturday afternoon were the highlight of our young social lives. For 12 cents, and later 14 cents, we could watch a full movie, several cartoons and a serialized story, usually a cowboy movie. These were so important to most of us that we bent whatever rules were imposed on us so we could attend. In my case, my mother had decided I should take violin lessons on Saturday afternoon from the minister. I had no choice but to do so, but when it came time for the Christmas recital — the reason no doubt the minister was contributing his time for my lessons — I intentionally blew it so badly that I was thereafter excused from the violin lessons and could resume my beloved Saturday afternoon movies. How we cheered on the good guys and booed the bad guys in those films! It is wonder we did not blow the place down, as well.

Also, I had my very first date at that theater. I was in the fourth grade and so was she. I forget what we saw, but the whole thing made me feel very grown up. A very pretty little girl with dark brown hair — I remember her name and face to this day, 65 years later (!). The next year we moved to West Roxbury, and a different theater, but I will always cherish my memories of the Rialto Theater.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 21, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Regarding the exterior photo posted above, I don’t know what year Sean Connery in “Diamonds are Forever” was released, but the exterior of the Rialto obviously had a drastic make-over and modernization, because its appearance is very different from the exterior photo taken in May 1941 for the MGM Theatre Report.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 20, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Yes, in the 1905-1915 period, it was common to rent small neighborhood halls and exhibit movie shows in them.

MarkB on April 19, 2013 at 10:18 pm

Ron Salters – I just found this on a Roslindale Historical Society web page: “There was Rand’s Corner, and then there was the library where the Rialto Theatre is now, but that was moved, that was only a wooden structure. And there was also a movie place where we watched silent movies.” This silent movie house must have been the one at 4255 Washington street. The building was one in from Corinth street, but there’s no mention of a theatre on the fire insurance map. Perhaps just a small hall used for showing silents.

MarkB on May 13, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Here’s the Rialto in 1924, listed as C.J. Gorman’s Amusement Enterprises.

View link

I remember driving by in the mid-1970s after they tore it down, and being amazed how small the footprint of the building seemed to be.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 25, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Yeah, I don’t understand that at all; at first I thought it was the residence of Charles Gorman, the theater’s manager. (Maybe he lived in one of the trees).

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 25, 2011 at 1:53 pm

411 South Street? Google Maps puts that address in the middle of the Arboretum.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 18, 2011 at 2:01 pm

A further clue that this theater was originally called the “Roslindale Theatre” is in a May 1919 Boston Police Dept report which CT member Edward Findlay has found. In routine license matters, it mentions Charles J. Gorman, prop. of the “Roslindale Theatre” at 703-711 South Street and 411 South Street.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on February 27, 2011 at 1:38 pm

In the 1921 Boston street directory, there is nothing at all listed for 4255 Washington St.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on February 21, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Was the Rialto originally called the “Roslindale Theatre”? In the list of theatres in the Boston Register and Business Directory, Issue 85, 1921, there is a Roslindale Theatre, 711 South Street. (The 1941 MGM Theatre Report says it was at 709 South Street).
Oddly, in the 1918 edition of the same publication, there is a “Roslindale Theatre moving pictures” listed at 4255 Washington Street, west side of street, between Poplar Street and Ashland Street to the north, and Grove Street to the south. I’m not familiar with that theater. The South Street address is correct for the Rialto.

MarkB on November 21, 2008 at 11:09 pm

I used to take the bus out from Jamaica Plain as a grade school kid. I remember seeing Hard Day’s Night, at least one Elvis movie and Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. When they tore it down, I drove by and was amazed how small the footprint of the building was. How did it ever fit in there? Good times.

jaxxboss on September 27, 2008 at 2:33 pm

Great times there. Lived in Roslindale from 68 to 76 when I went in the Navy. Saw mad mad mad world there and Butch Cassidy and I think monster mash. The pizza was so good, especially in the colder months. Good memmories.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 11, 2007 at 12:12 pm

In the Boston Post theatre pages of the late-1940s, the Rialto in Roslindale shared a small ad with the Bellevue Theatre, also in Roslindale. Their names appeared at the top of the ad, with the same bill featured at both theatres. It seems odd that there was no choice of film for movie-goers in Roslindale who patronized these two houses.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on November 7, 2006 at 3:07 am

I believe the Pixie is listed here as Fairmount Theatre. I don’t know its current status.

eb2jim on November 6, 2006 at 10:22 pm

The Rialto closed in late 1972 or 73, although the building was there and boarded up until 1976 I believe. The side front windows where they put the posters were smashed and I cut my hand on a piece of glass one afternoon in 1976, so I date it at that era. A few of my friends crawled in and said that there were spools of film thrown around the seats. It got torched and finally got ripped down, and that would have been around the same time as Parke-Snow’s fire and the lowest point for Roslindale Sq. I went there often before it closed, and it had great .75 and later $1 matinees for kids on Sat and Sun. There was one weekend when they had Godzilla’s Revenge, which showed up that same evening on Channel 56’s Creature Feature with the title Minya Son of Godzilla. I did see Diamonds Are Forever there, as well as Garden of The Finzi Contini’s and Walkabout, which were pretty complicated for a grade school kid. But they weren’t about to turn away a buck.

The bathrooms were tiled and in the basement. There was an orchestra pit with big brass rails and the instruments from the silent days and live stuff were still in there and covered with canvas in 1972. It had a balcony up back and the opera seats up on either side of the stage that were locked up. The seats were red stuffed cloth covered affairs that punk kids cut open and destroyed.

Next door was was Santoro’s Pizza and they made the BEST pizza in Rossi Sq. Some people prefered the place up by Dianes. Boschetto’s bakery and Ashmont hardware were up the block, JFK TV was down. After it closed there wasn’t a lot for a kid to do movie-wise. Some people went over to Cleary Sq to the Pixie (also known as the NU-PIXIE and worthy of a review or two here as the building was still there a few years ago) to fill the void, or to the Village in Hancock (Westbrook) Village, but they both couldn’t hold a candle to the Rialto. Similar in old-time vibe and size to the Dedham Community, but more ornate. Not anywhere as big as The Village or The Norwood Center place. The late 60s and early 70s crime and drugs, and to a large degree the busing flight made walking to Rossie Sq to see a movie at night a real unpleasant experience. The exact opposite of what is going on there now. Add the Dedham Drive-in converting to the mega-cinema in 1973 and the writing was on the wall. Along with the accelerants and the zippo.

If they invent a time machine, I think a matinee there is in order, with Santoro’s and a couple of comic books at the Spa after.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 15, 2006 at 10:57 am

There is a MGM Report for the Rialto at 709 South St. in Roslindale with a photo dated May 1941. It’s also listed in the 1927 Film Daily Yearbook, but with no info. The 1941 photo looks nothing like the photos posted above. The entrance, with its boxy marquee, was in the middle of an old block. The Report states that it has been showing MGM product for over 10 years; that it’s over 15 years old; that it’s in Fair condition; and has 739 mainfloor seats and 587 balcony seats, total: 1326 seats.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on July 5, 2005 at 6:36 am

In fact, I think this is the new building that is replacing the Rialto.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on July 5, 2005 at 6:33 am

It was right at the beginning of South Street in Roslindale Square, facing Adams Park. I believe that it was replaced by a medical office building. Here’s a photo of it, with the marquee advertising “Diamonds Are Forever”, so it stayed open at least into the early 1970s.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 5, 2005 at 6:21 am

A small photo of the Rialto appears on this web page of the Roslindale Historical Society.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 5, 2005 at 6:19 am

Comments on this theatre have been made on the Village Cinema page.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 5, 2005 at 6:14 am

It was on August 29, 1967 that I saw Cecil B. DeMille’s 1952 The Greatest Show on Earth here, in re-release. Earlier in the day I had seen Beach Red and The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre at the Savoy (Opera House, etc.) downtown.