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South Pasadena’s Rialto Theatre will reportedly become a church

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The historic venue played a starring role in La La Land

Theater marquee Dean Terry | creative commons

South Pasadena’s historic Rialto Theatre, featured prominently in the movie LA LA Land, has been shuttered since 2007, but the historic venue could soon see new life as a church and event space.

Local preservationist Escott Norton, who heads a group called Friends of the Rialto, tells the South Pasadena Review that trendy Los Angeles-based church Mosaic has agreed to operate the theatre, which is owned by developer Izek Shomof.

Norton told the Pasadena Weekly in February that his group wanted to lease the theatre in order to refurbish it as a “full-fledged, multi-use venue with spoken word events, comedy nights, [and] movies.”

Fundraising efforts for that project came up short, but in a post to the Friends of the Rialto Facebook page, Norton says the group has offered to assist the church with the building’s restoration. Members of Friends of the Rialto say they want to ensure the theatre will be open for public events on nights when it is not being used by the church.

Completed in 1925, the Moorish-style theatre was designed by prolific movie theatre architect Lewis A. Smith, who also designed the Vista in Los Feliz. The Rialto has 1,300 seats and a 30-foot stage designed for live performances (there’s even an orchestra and dressing rooms beneath the stage). Its distinctive neon marquee was added in the 1930s.

Several films, including Robert Altman’s 1992 thriller The Player, have featured the film. But its recent role in La La Land may prove to be its most enduring cinematic appearance. Appropriately, news of the new tenant was first reported Tuesday, as Los Angeles observed “La La Land Day” in honor of the movie’s DVD release.