2314 N. Main Street,
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Previously operated by: Strand Amusement Co.
Architects: Charles H. Abramowitz
Previous Names: Elite Theatre
Yet another cinema on N. Main Street. The Elite Theatre was opened in 1913 with 728 seats, all on a single floor. Taken over by new operator, a balcony was added, bringing the seating capacity up to 900. On February 2, 1924 it was renamed Rialto Theatre. It was remodeled in 1941, when new splay walls containing light fixtures were installed beside the proscenium.
The Rialto Theatre was destroyed by fire February 25, 1961.
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The architect of the Rialto Theatre was Charles H. Abramowitz of New Haven.
There was also a Rialto in New Haven which was destroyed by fire on 11/28/21, with three fatalities and 79 patrons injured.
The Elite Theatre opened as a 728-seat house at 2314 N. Main St. in 1913. Albert G. Skidmore took over the struggling theater and added a balcony to bring the seating to 900. New management took on the theater early in 1924 where it became the Rialto Theatre. The theater’s new moniker came on Feb. 2, 1924 with the film, “Where the North Begins.” In 1925, a triumvirate of new owners took on the Rialto. And in 1927, the Strand Amusement Company Circuit which already had four Bridgeport theaters took on the Rialto. This ownership change lender stability to the Rialto and remodels that included the advent of sound, and a 1950s makeover.
Holding the theater for just over thirty years, the Rialto founds its audience. But when the Strand Circuit discontinued operations on May 31, 1958, the portfolio of Bridgeport Theaters was in flux. Fortunately, the veteran general manager of the company Morris Jacobsen took on both the Strand and the Rialto though initially passing up the Strand Circuit’s Hippodrome and American — though reopening the American six months later — with the Colonial, Mayfair, Park City and Astor already shuttered. Refurbishing the theater with its final count of 750 seats, it looked as if the Elite/Rialto would make it to its 50th Anniversary.
But in its 48th year of service, however, it ended badly. Just as the first 12 people reached their seats from the double feature of “The Facts of Life” and “Five Guns to Tombstone,” a fire caused by faulty wiring decimated the theater. Reportedly, a young girl was the first to report the fire to the concession stand and a patron was first to phone the fire in but giving the wrong address. As the operators of the theater tried to douse the flames instead of reporting the correct address, valuable time slipped away to prevent a major fire. The result was a spectacular blaze felling the roof and after discussing the situation with structural engineers with some hope of salvaging the property, it was curtains for the Rialto. Fortunately, everyone survived the fire that day but Feb. 25, 1961 was the Rialto’s final day of operation. The building was raised later that year and a modern store and apartment building was put in its place.