Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Intermission Extended

Recently, I wrote about the impending removal of the historic Rialto Theatre's famous sign. As of today, there may be hope: structural engineer Michael Krakower has been hired to formulate a plan to shore up the sign and make sure it will be able to remain in place. Krakower previously worked on Pasadena's historic Raymond Theatre.

Don't start sighing with relief just yet, however. The sign is still slated to come down, unless Landmark and Krakower can convince the city that all future plans for the sign are safe. After that, building officials must approve the plans. For more on the story, check out Patch's coverage here.

I'm no expert, and this is all hearsay, but I spoke to a structural engineer who told me that given what he could see, a plan for securing the sign should not be an issue. One film producer even told me that he could have a crew fix the sign in a couple of hours if given the chance. A contractor standing outside the theatre when I was taking pictures told me he'd seen worse safety violations in home renovations.

Do I have hope? Yes. Am I convinced we're in the clear? Not yet. Though I'm reminded of Dustin Hoffman's fantastic portrayal of producer Stanley Motss in Wag the Dog. When presented with a seemingly insurmountable problem of war, he would joyfully compare it to a catastrophe he had averted when shooting a film.

"This is nothing!" He said at one point. "Did you ever shoot in Italy? Try three Italian starlets wacked out on Benzedrine and grappa, this is a walk in the park!"

I sincerely hope that fixing the sign really is a walk in the park. But I also hope that this issue of sign safety and neglect finally forces the hands of those in control of the gorgeous treasure box theater sitting right in the heart of South Pas. The Rialto is just waiting to be polished and reopened, with its jewels given back to the greater community.

Trust me on this: I've seen very recent photographs of the interior of the building taken from just about every angle. It's even more spectacular than many of you realize, and it's in surprisingly great shape from the pristine light fixtures to the exquisite carved details.

In fact, it's still downright dazzling in there.

You hear that, Landmark? We still have a long way to go, but let's try to channel a little Stanley Motss. "You think you're in a spot?" He asked. "You think this is a tight spot? Try making the Hunchback of Notre Dame when your three lead actors die, two weeks from the end of principal photography!"

More as this develops.

For updates, make sure to join us at the Friends of the Rialto: website
Or friend the Friends of the Rialto on Facebook


Judy Williams said...

At least there is something hopeful going on in that regard!!

Thanks for reminding me of that GREAT movie!!

Green Guy said...

Great post again, Laurie. Keep hammering at this.

Who cares what I think? said...

I am still not convinced. Hope the city doesn't squash the engineers plans.

Some Guy said...

Saw this from Twitter. I had no idea it had come to this. I will join Friends of the Rialto. What more can I do?

Mister Earl said...

Call Mark Cuban. Really.

Shanna said...

10:30pm...Just got in and was eager to check your comments today and was surprised at so few.

My thought is this: Maybe it was because I overheard a couple at dinner talking about their up-coming trip to Europe...and the afternoon at Versailles. So, I thought...we here in the US have no great historical cathedrals, no palaces, no Versailles.

But what we DO have is our own history and it is largely, the history of Vaudeville and Hollywood and film and, yes, Movie Palaces! That is who we are. Isn't that what people want to see when they visit?

So, I say - let us embrace who we are and treat our precious history as what it is. Preserve it. Cherish it. Let it be the PALACE that it is!

Anonymous said...

Saw this from Twitter. Check your email.

Michelle said...

Shanna, I have heard people talking about this all over town!

Laurie said...

Shanna, I have used the Versailles comparison when discussing our great movie palaces. I am struck with how, unlike the European castles, these are the palaces of everyman (and woman.)

Some Guy, you asked what more you can do? In my opinion, keep this in the public eye and make sure Landmark Theaters knows how much we love the Rialto and want it to be saved. I believe too many people think that things are being taken care of behind the scenes and they don't have to worry about the place falling to the wrecking ball. To that I point to the fall of Los Angeles' historic Ambassador Hotel. (And that had a HUGE preservationist movement behind it trying to stop it from being demolished.) There are countless other examples of LA area buildings that are now gone because people either didn't know or didn't care that they were being allowed to decay into ruin or believed that being on historical registers somehow insured that they were safe.

Write letters. Tweet. Talk about this. Spread the word. Demand action. Know anyone with deep pockets and a love of cinema? Get them involved. And by all means, join Friends of the Rialto.

More as this develops, gang.

TheChieftess said...

Perhaps you all need to approach the family that owns the theater...I believe they're the ones that are dragging their feet...

Laurie said...

Chieftess, it's complicated. I wrote about it earlier in the year but hopefully with Landmark's help and the amazing grassroots efforts of Norton Escott's group Friends of the Rialto...

Stay tuned for more info.

Arguing Guy said...

I hope it is saved.

What would replace it would at best be a step or two above some of the other strip mall disasters on Fair Oaks.

Best wishes for the best outcome.

Laurie said...

I can't even think about that outcome, Arguing Guy.