Soon for Sale: South Pasadena's Rialto Theatre

The 1925 cinema palace remains in "remarkably original condition."

By Alysia Gray Painter
|  Wednesday, Jun 11, 2014  |  Updated 9:15 AM PDT
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Soon for Sale: South Pasadena's Rialto Theatre

Friends of the Rialto Theatre

South Pasadena's 1925 Rialto Theatre will go up for sale.

Film fans visiting South Pasadena tend to alight upon a few topics of discussion with regularity.

They want to find the tree that George McFly fell out of in "Back to the Future" (yep, that's there) and PeeWee Herman's house in "PeeWee's Big Adventure" (ditto) and they want to know what's to come of the Rialto Theatre.

Surely you've asked the same question, once or a dozen times, when driving by the shuttered 1925 cinema palace at 1023 Fair Oaks Boulevard? Maybe you saw "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" there in your youth, or maybe you remember the Rialto's chilling and pivotal role in 1992's "The Player," or maybe you just hate to see a beautiful building decay another day without living out the purpose it was built for.

But the maybes may be ending. Friends of the Rialto Theatre, the advocacy organization that's supported the preservation of the venue, reports that the movie house and former home of vaudeville is going up for sale and soon "will be listed shortly."

The amount? It's "undisclosed" says a note on the group's Facebook page. "It is good to see movement, now we need to make sure the movement is in the best direction for the Rialto and the South Pasadena community," writes Friends founder Escott O. Norton.

Wayback theatres re-finding past glory isn't an unheard of dream here in Movieland. The Ace Hotel chain recently provided "loving reanimation" to the United Artists Theatre on Broadway, but other cinemas have received retouches and refurbishments over the decades.

Will that be the fate for the Rialto, a detail-laden gem that still stirs up a lot of passion around SoPas? 

We film fans get excited to see a movie star's home go on the block, but the sale of a vintage theatre is very much a collective fantasy factory, a place where countless people have gone over the decades to enjoy a bit of entertainment and escapism. Rather than representing one star, though, a vintage theatre is the memory-laden repository for many.

Old movie palaces are among the most iconic architectural tent poles, in any city, but this notion seems especially true in a community famous for making movies.

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