Rialto Theatre

318 East Congress Street,
Tucson, AZ 85701

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Related Websites

The Historic Rialto Theatre (Official)

Additional Info

Previously operated by: Paramount Pictures Inc.

Architects: Alexander Curlett

Functions: Community Center

Previous Names: Paramount Theatre, Cine Plaza

Phone Numbers: Box Office: same
Manager: same

Nearby Theaters

Rialto Theatre - Tucson, AZ

The Rialto Theatre was opened August 29, 1920. By the early-1940’s it was operated by Paramount Pictures Inc. through their subsidiary Harry Nace. It was renamed Paramount Theatre on August 22, 1948. Closed due to a major steam explosion in 1984. Under renovation since 1985, and currently an active performing arts center. Friends of the Rialto Theatre are working to bring this theatre back to it’s former glory.

An extensive history of the theatre is available at the official website.

Contributed by Gregg

Recent comments (view all 14 comments)

monika on June 3, 2007 at 6:07 pm

Here’s a photo I took of the Rialto in 2001: View link

monika on February 7, 2009 at 9:18 am

I think that Lost Memory’s photo link is more recent than the previous ones. I was there in 2001 and the theatre had the plain, flat marquee. The photos in LM’s links from 2/6/09 and 11/14/07 are more recent than that, the theatre has had some restoration work done in the last couple years.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 13, 2009 at 2:10 am

That information from the National Register of Historic Places interesting. I was not aware that Alexander Curlett had ever designed a theater. It must have been a solo work, too, as his father William Curlett, his former partner, had died in 1914.

The Rialto must have been his last, or nearly the last, project he designed before he formed his partnership with Claud Beelman, as everything else I’ve seen of his from 1920 to 1928 is attributed to Curlett & Beelman. The impression I’ve gotten from various sources has been that Aleck Curlett was the less talented member of that firm, but the Rialto is a pretty impressive building. Maybe he had more to do with the designs of the great Curlett & Beelman projects of the 1920s than I’ve been led to believe.

Now I’m wondering if some of the still-unattributed theaters around the southwest from the late 1910s might have been of his design.

Patsy on January 11, 2011 at 6:33 pm

Curtis McCrary of the Rialto Theatre held a a special vigil in honor of Gabrielle Giffords, John Roll and the other victims of the recent shooting in Tucson AZ tonight at 7:30. The marquee gave a message of hope to their Gabby.

spectrum on September 10, 2013 at 7:20 pm

From their website gallery, much of the original decoration in the lobby and auditorium is gone, replaced by modern d├ęcor.

spectrum on September 10, 2013 at 7:21 pm

…also the seating has been removed, and the smooth sloping floor has removable folding chairs.

rivest266 on October 19, 2016 at 4:15 pm

Opened as Rialto on August 29th, 1920. Grand opening ad in the photo section

rivest266 on October 22, 2016 at 9:16 am

August 22nd, 1948 grand opening ad as Paramount also in the photo section.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 20, 2022 at 5:51 pm

The Phoenix-based Rickard and Nace chain were the first operators of Tucson’s Rialto Theatre on its opening in 1920. The theater had been built by Emanuel Drachman, owner of the Tucson Opera House, whose family maintained a connection to the Rialto for many years, Drachman’s son Roy acting as manager on behalf of Rickard and Nace as late as 1933.

The explosion that closed the theater in January, 1984 was not gas but steam. The theater’s ancient boiler ruptured violently after being fitted with the wrong type of safety valve, allowing excessive pressure to build up.

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