AKA: Rialto Theater, Los Angeles, CA; Grauman's Rialto Theatre, Los Angeles, CA

Structure Type: built works - performing arts structures - theatres

Designers: Dennis, Oliver Perry, Architect (firm); Woollett, William Lee, Architect (firm); Oliver Perry Dennis (architect); William Lee Woollett (architect)

Dates: constructed 1916-1917

total floor area: 9,830 sq. ft.

812 South Broadway
Downtown, Los Angeles, CA 90014-3202

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Building History

Exhibitor J.A. Quinn opened the "New Rialto Theatre" in 04/1917, with the exclusive Los Angeles screening of Selig Polyscope Company Pictures' Garden of Allah (1916). the first screen adaptation of Robert Smythe Hichens's 1904 novel of the same name. (The Garden of Allah would be remade twice more, once by MGM in 1927 and again by Selznick International Pictures in 1936.) The Los Angeles Herald described the anticipation that surrounded this 1916 film: "The long-heralded Selig production 'The Garden of Allah,' will be the big opening attraction at J.A. Quinn's new Rialto theater, which is being rushed to completion on Broadway near Eighth street. Mr. Quinn has just closed a record-breaking film rental contract with the All-Star Features distributors which gives him the exclusive exhbition right in Los Angeles of this Selig masterpiece. Everyone is pulling for J.A. Quinn's success in this new venture and if his future attractions come anywhere near the standard of the opening attraction we can safely predict great prosperity for the New Rialto theater, which is expected to open the early part of April." (See 'Allah' To Open New Quinn's Rialto," Los Angeles Herald, vol. XLII, no. 113, 03/13/1917, p. 19.)

Impresario Sid Grauman (1879-1950) operated the Rialto Theatre from 1919 until 1924. In 1921, Grauman's Rialto had an agreement to show movies produced by the Paramount Pictures Corporation. (See "Paramount Pictures Ad: How Do You Know It Will Be a Good Show?" Los Angeles Herald, Number 126, 03/28/1921, p. B4.) Not surprisingly, when Grauman sold his Downtown Los Angeles theatre holdings in 1924, he sold them to Paramount. It was reported in the Southwest Builder and Contractor in 07/1923: "Sid Grauman has announced that he will dispose of his interest in the Million Dollar, Rialto and Metropolitan Theatres to the Paramount Pictures Corporation. Mr. Grauman plans the erection of two class A theaters at Hollywood." (See "Theaters," Southwest Builder and Contractor, 07/20/1923, p. 40.)

The Los Angeles Times wrote of Grauman's two-week remodel in 1919: "The Rialto Theater on Broadway near Eighth, long known to local theatergoers as Quinn's Rialto, was closed Saturday night for two weeks by Sid Grauman, who recently purchased a controlling interest. Mr. Grauman promises that few will recognize the Rialto after he has effected proposed changes. To begin with, an entirely new and unique lighting system will be installed, desgined to produce unusually subtle colors, which will be projected over the theater from the orchestral pit, the idea being harmonizing the music and color through synchronization toward interpreting the mood of the screen play. The seats at Grauman's Rialto will be covered in white satin, and the entire theater will be permeated with the fragrance of fresh flowers at all times. The usherettes will wear the same costume as that worn by the demure damsels at the Third and Broadway edifice, while it is announced that Mr. Grauman has secured a man to open the front doors of automobiles who stands 7 feet 10 inches and will wear a resplendent uniform. Sid Grauman announces the grand reopening and dedication of the Grauman's Rialto for Monday night November 10 [1919]." (See "Big Plan for New Grauman House," Los Angeles Times, 10/27/1919: pt II, p. 8.)

Building Notes

Historian David Naylor, in his book, American Picture Palaces The Architecture of Fantasy, (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1981, p. 216), stated that the Rialto Theatre was erected in 1919.

In late 12/2013, the Philadelphia-based clothing retailer, Urban Outfitters, opened a store in the former Rialto Theatre in Los Angeles.


After Sid Grauman purchased the Rialto in 1919, he brought in architect, William Lee Woollett (1874-1955) to redesign the facility. The Rialto was seismically upgraded in the 1990s.


PCAD id: 6920