Yesterday it was revealed that huge national retailer Urban Outfitters will be selling its mass-produced hipster fare out of Broadway's historic Rialto Theatre come the end of 2013 (another big coup for the rapidly-fancifying street)--the chain will restore the theater's marquee (the "longest existing historic marquee in Los Angeles") and add theatery touches like a "concession stand-inspired cash wrap." We're told that the theater's been pretty much gutted since a seismic retrofit years ago, so that "exposed wood truss structure" UO is after shouldn't be too hard to come by. But the Rialto was once quite lovely and comes with a fascinating history--it was built in just five months in early 1917, before the era of super-elaborate movie palaces began (that era really kicked off with Broadway's Million Dollar in 1918), according to theater consultant Ed Kelsey's presentation for the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation.
The Rialto was originally designed by Oliver P. Dennis and run by a local exhibitor named JA Quinn, and it opened on May 21, 1917 with Garden of Allah. No one's ever been able to find photos of the original interior, but it was supposedly "classic but restrained" in blue, French gray, and ivory, with a marble lobby. It had 900 seats, no balcony, and a small stage. In 1919, legendary theater-man Sid Grauman (of the Chinese, the Egyptian, and the Million Dollar) took over and gave the theater an overhaul designed by mad theater-designer William Lee Woollett (also responsible for the Million Dollar). In the mid-'30s, the Rialto became part of Metropolitan Theaters's stable, where it stayed into the '80s. The theater closed in 1987.
And lastly, idea for the Urban Outfitters opening later this year: get David Blaine to recreate a 1927 stunt by a man named Stumpter Shaw in which he attempted to balance for five hours on a "slack wire on top of the marquee of the Rialto Theater."
· Exclusive: Urban Outfitters Rehabbing DTLA's Rialto Theatre [Curbed LA]