As historic theaters from Broadway to Beverly Hills are starting to see new life lately, South Pasadena's Rialto Theatre has sat shuttered for years, languishing and waiting for its own revival. Now, finally, that might be on the way, says the LA Register, which reports that the Jebbia family trust, which owns the place, has decided to put it up for sale. City and community leaders are hopeful that the buyer will be someone who can restore the movie house, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places but completely falling apart these days. The Rialto's been in the Jebbia family since the 1930s, and leased by Landmark Theaters since 1976.
Landmark stopped showing movies in 2007; they were losing too much money on upkeep and not making enough back from audiences. The theater hasn't screened a movie since 2009, when it hosted occasional revivals of Rocky Horror Picture Show. It closed for good in 2010 after a piece of plaster fell from the building's frontage onto the sidewalk and the fire department shut it down for building code violations.
Landmark and the Jebbia family never seemed too interested in doing the repairs necessary to reopen the moviehouse and the city didn't want to spend the money on the lawsuits to make them do them, so instead everyone just watched as the theater deteriorated and waited for the owners to give up and sell. Now that it's finally happened, "we think it's an opportunity for the Rialto to finally reopen its doors," said South Pasadena's city manager. The real estate company repping the property and the city agree that the ideal buyer would be an entertainment-focused one (movies, live music, live theater).
The "mainly Moorish" but also somewhat Spanish Baroque Rialto opened in 1925, and at one time had a Wurlitzer organ and an indoor mini-golf course, according to Cinema Treasures. It was built by CL Langley (*Langley was the backer, the architect was LA Smith), who also built and ran Glendale's Alex Theatre. Because of the building's historical status, no major alterations can be made, so all the architecture will be preserved.
· South Pasadena's historic shuttered Rialto Theatre to be sold [LAR]
· Rialto Theatre [Cinema Treasures]