Rialto Theater

37 W. Washington Street,
Phoenix, AZ 85003

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Paramount Pictures Inc.

Architects: Alexander Curlett

Firms: William Curlett & Sons

Styles: Italian Renaissance, Spanish Renaissance

Nearby Theaters

RIALTO Theatre; Phoenix, Arizona.

Opened on July 2, 1921 with a seating capacity of 1,700. By the early-1940’s it was operated by Paramount pictures Inc. through their subsidiary Harry Nace. The Rialto Theater was closed and demolished 34 years later in 1955.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

William on November 18, 2003 at 5:33 pm

The Rialto Theatre was located at 37 W. Washington Street and it seated 1040 people.

acmeron on November 1, 2004 at 8:37 pm

The Rialto originally had a huge neon sunburst above the marquee. That was later changed to a right angle Rialto sign. The wall above the marquee was a restrained Spanish Revival. The top of the marquee had fantastic curling motifs with large ‘jewels’ inserted. The free standing ticket booth had emerald green tiles all around. Inside was fabulous. As you went in the front doors, the superb classical staircase went up and then split into left and right stairs to a square balcony that overlooked the lobby. There was fine furniture, golden Grecian statues and gilded ornament all over. From the landing you entered the balcony. The ceiling in the theater had a huge painting on it; I think it was a stylized Native American maiden. The rest of the decoration looked right out of the Italian Renaissance.

RobbKCity on December 28, 2004 at 7:15 am

Wasn’t this theater across the street from the Woolworth Store?

acmeron on April 5, 2005 at 12:38 pm

It was located across from Newberry’s. Woolworth was two blocks east near the Fox theater.

thegrinch on November 28, 2006 at 10:41 pm

The Rialto dates back to 1921. It had a sytle 210 Wurlitzer organ shipped 4/1921. The theatre was well equipped and featured vaudeville and live animal acts even. It was probably Phoenix’s most deluxe theater until the Orpheum came along. The organ wound up in the Phoenix College auditorium in the 50’s and was a shadow of its former self. It has been undergoing a major redo by the local chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society for the last year. Don Story

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 16, 2011 at 4:47 am

Alexander Curlett would have been the lead architect on this project. His father, William Curlett, had died in 1914. Aleck Curlett later formed a partnership with Claud Beelman, which lasted until 1928. I’d love to see photos of the Rialto, if anyone can dig them up. Curlett tended to be overshadowed by Beelman in their later partnership, and it would be interesting to see what he came up with on his own.

theatre_organ_fan on March 19, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Greetings to all,

Even though I am not young, I AM too young to have seen the Rialto Theatre. As such, I too would very much appreciate seeing a picture of the Rialto. As a child, the theatres that I went to were the Fox, the Paramount (formerly the Orpheum?, and then rebuilt into the Orpheum), the Azteca (I believe it was named that), and possibly another theatre downtown that I cannot recall.


Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 19, 2012 at 9:55 pm

Dave, at Flickr Don Lewis posted a photo from Billy Holcomb’s collection showing Washington Street in the 1940s, with a side-on view of the Rialto’s vertical sign. I guess Don never got around to putting a link to it on this page, so here it is. I’d still like to see a full view of the front of the theater, but haven’t found one yet.

rivest266 on November 14, 2015 at 10:50 am

July 2nd, 1921 grand opening ad in photo section.

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