Rio Theatre

323 Walnut Street,
Harrisburg, PA 17113

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Fabian Theaters, Wilmer & Vincent Corp.

Styles: Art Deco

Previous Names: Majestic Theatre

Nearby Theaters

Rio Theatre

The Majestic Theatre was on Walnut Street across from Capitol Park and adjacent to a large YWCA building in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Built in 1908, the Majestic Theatre featuring vaudeville and shows such as "No, No, Nanette" and "Rose Marie". Deem’s Taylor’s opera, "The King’s Henchman" was performed there and artists such as pianist Josef Hofmann were booked into the house. It also doubled as a movie theatre and was closed in 1935.

In 1938 it settled into its final identity, remodeled as a first-run movie theatre, it reopened as the Rio Theatre on November 4, 1938 with Frank Capra’s "You Can’t Take It With You" starring Jean Arthur. It continued to show quality film fare until the late-1940’s when it slipped into double-feature B-movie programming and a final sad decline.

The Rio Theatre was a beautiful Art Deco style theatre with a three-story facade. A large vertical sign spelled out the name which also appeared at the front of the triangular marquee. What appears to be a large circular window was behind the vertical sign. I vaguely remember that the lobby area had a multi-level structure with stairs that suggested its legitimate theatre origins.

The Rio Theatre was razed in March of 1955 and Strawberry Square now occupies most of the block.

Contributed by Ross Care

Recent comments (view all 13 comments)

JohnMessick on February 10, 2010 at 6:40 am

Great photo of the Rio. I have a newspaper clipping with that photo. Thanks for posting that on your blog.

carolgrau on February 10, 2010 at 8:12 pm

I was just starting to run movies at the time the Rio was about to close. My dad took me there twice, my Uncle was the projectionist, I always remember it being real neat and clean…Never worked this one…

Ross Care
Ross Care on February 12, 2010 at 1:24 am

I hardly ever attended the Rio, Like JohnS the westerns and B-movies it screened never appealed to me. Then it was one of the first downtown Harrisburg theaters to be razed.
Thus I only have vague recollections of the interior. If anyone has any clearer memories I would like to read them.
JohnS, where on Market St. was the Victoria? Downtown? I don’t recall that theater at all.
Do you remember Harrisburg radio personality, Red McCarthy? He had a show broadcast from a studio on Market St. close to Front St.

Ross Care
Ross Care on August 14, 2010 at 3:02 pm

After the demolition of the Rio. You can still see the gas station which is to the right in the previous photo of the theater in its prime.

View link

BTW I now date my previous Rio photo at 1950, the year THE SAVAGE HORDE with Wild Bill Elliott (the film on the marquee) was released.

DavidZornig on October 17, 2015 at 11:55 am

1928 photo as the Majestic Theatre added, courtesy of Arthur H. Lahote. Original source unknown.

rivest266 on May 25, 2024 at 8:24 am

The Majestic and Orpheum theatres both opened on February 3rd, 1908. Grand opening ad posted.

rivest266 on May 25, 2024 at 5:27 pm

The Majestic theater, which had been closed in 1935, underwent a transformation and emerged anew as the Rio on November 4th, 1938, thanks to the efforts of Wilmer & Vincent Corp.

Ross Care
Ross Care on May 25, 2024 at 9:17 pm

My blog may have been removed somehow. I have not posted for years.

Ross Care
Ross Care on June 16, 2024 at 2:24 pm

We might add here that the Rio is not only closed, it’s demolished.

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