Sunday, November 1, 2009

Doorway to Wonderland...

Today is the first of the month, and that means it's Theme Day for participating City Daily Photo bloggers. This month's theme is Doorways.

Here is the vantage point from the doorway of The Rialto, South Pasadena's decaying film palace. It has been closed for some time now, open only for the occasional birthday party or Rocky Horror midnight show. In this era of iTouch and YouTube, The Rialto stands as a reminder of old-school movie magic. Stepping through these doors once meant leaving the problems of the real world behind, sinking into a plush, velvet seat an losing yourself in the film experience. In fact, stepping through these doors was kind of like entering another dimension. It was more than just the moving pictures on the screen -- The Rialto was an oasis of opulance and grandeur accessible to everyone for the price of a ticket. The Batchelder fountain, gold leaf columns and ornate Wurlitzer organ were everyman's riches. Now, the very same details shine like jewels in our synthetic age.

Like most South Pas residents, I hope for a rebirth of The Rialto. (Come on, Hollywood ... surely there are those among you who are tired of mansions, bling and race cars. Why not invest in this magical place and save an iconic part of Los Angeles history!) You can learn more about The Rialto here.

For more interpretations of today's Theme Day, check out the talented photobloggers from around the world. Click here to view thumbnails for all participants

30 comments:

dbdubya said...

This view of the stairs looks far better than the outside, or the actual theater itself. The seats are collapsing, your shoes stick to the floor, and the curtain's tattered. Outside the building is literally falling apart. It would be nice for some group to take over the lease and renovate this grand theater into what it once was.

Julie ScottsdaleDailyPhoto.com said...

very nice choice and narrative to bring back memories

Jilly said...

What a great choice. These wonderful old cinemas are disappearing everywhere. A super image and, as always, narrative to go with it.

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Judy Williams said...

Something so nostalgic about the grand staircase. I still like to go to Austin's Paramount for the same reason. Been missing you guys - I've been down and out with seasonal allergies but I think I'm on the mend now.

Mister Earl said...

Hey Judy: You and Lance Armstrong twittered almost the same thing about UT at almost the same time last night! Glad you're feeling better.

Yakpate said...

It is so fitting that the magic of movies would be enjoyed in a magical setting like the Rialto. As adults, we may not remember the full wonder of the movies as children experience it... munching popcorn and other treats in the dark while seeing amazing sights never seen before, and learning about the world in an unforgettable way.

As a child, the movies were a portal to a better, happier, more wonderful world. The Rialto entrance perfectly depicts this.

-K- said...

If more movie theaters were like the one in your photo, I would see more movies.

But as it is, it's been years since I've been inside a movie theater. They seem so intent on making it a loud, garish, money-gouging experience that I lost all interest. (I sound like a crank, don't I?)

altadenahiker said...

I'm so glad you're taking a stand for our favorite theater. And K would have loved it.

Shanna said...

Well said, Yak. And Judy, I've been trying to think of the name of the Paramount in Austin. Thank you. Going there is a wonderful experience.

-K-:I just realized why I no longer go to films. It is not because of the films themselves. The whole experince is missing.

I want The Rialto back!

Mister Earl said...

Could this be the stairway they're talking about?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WfoccRna6I

Halcyon said...

That's really pretty. It's too bad it doesn't get much use, but I'm glad it's in good shape.

Happy theme day!!

Laurie said...

Mister E, your Youtube clips are so great. I've never heard of those guys but what a great version of Stairway!

K, I share your (Max Von Sydow?) cranky ways when it comes to movies. I love films, but I just hate going to movies anymore because the multiplexes are so soulless and the 20 minutes of commercials before the previews are so annoying.

Seems like the trend is toward theaters like Arclight in Hollywood which I have a problem with because the higher ticket cost makes them somewhat prohibitive to poorer people and I think moviegoing should be a collective experience. Also, I don't necessarily want a soulless theater that happens to sell chai lattes and vegan wraps in the hipster lobby bistro, I'd rather have great old theater like The Rialto with architectural detail and, okay, good popcorn is always nice, too.

No offense to those who dig the Arclight. It's just not what I think cinema is all about.

Petrea said...

I saw an indie film at the Rialto about 8 years back, and the place wasn't in such bad shape as dbdubya describes. Sounds like it's gone downhill very fast. That's sad.

This photo looks pretty good. I guess someone's taking care of the lobby. Were you inside, Laurie? How'd you get in? Go to see Rocky Horror, did you?

Keith said...

I've only been to the Rialto once, and that was for a showing of Rocky Horror. The rest may be as dbdubya describes, but at least this part shows the beauty of the theater.

dbdubya said...

If you haven't been there, you should check out the Alex Theater in Glendale (or the Alexander Theater as it was known when I was a kid growing up in Glendale). The Alex is what the Rialto strives to be. A beautifully renovated old movie house from the same era. It's a bit grander than the Rialto with a great courtyard entrance. They have everything from chamber orchestras, to ballet, to movie festivals. It's supported by a non-profit organization and even with that the City of Glendale has to kick in a few hundred K each year to keep it afloat. But, it's worth it. Someday maybe the Rialto can be South Pasadena's version of the Alexander.

Laurie said...

Petrea, I captured this through the glass of the locked front door! It was closed, but the lights were on and I got lucky with the shot. No Rocky Horror for me, though it sure sounds fun. (Takes me back to high school!)

If you look at the images from the Rialto site I linked to in the post, you can see that the interior of the theater is intact. The Wurlitzer was pulled out years ago but the fittings, the stage gears, the beautiful tilework, gold leaf, relief angels and paintings are all there just waiting to be cleaned up. I have no doubt the place has as many rats as ghosts, and the floors need fixing (and serious cleaning) but it's an absolute jewel in that doesn't need to be cut, just polished.

Laurie said...

DB, how did the Alex renovation happen? Non-profits don't have that kind of money. Was there a big fundraiser or did someone kick in the seed money or did City of Glendale make the first investment? It's such a beautiful place. I dream of something similar for the Rialto, but I wonder how we get there.

dbdubya said...

I don't recall, Laurie, since it's been over 20 years. I think there was a movement to "save the Alex" that resulted in the creation of a non-profit organization. They have never been able to raise enough despite many efforts through the year. The problem for South Pasasdena is that Glendale is nearly 10 times the size of South Pasadena. Their financial commitment is about 10% per capita what it would be in South Pas. The Chamber and the City have worked over the past few years to look at alternatives. It's complicated because the owners don't want to sell, the leasholder doesn't want to inprove it or open the doors, and it's not economically viable.

Laurie said...

Hmmmm... I wonder how long until the lease is up?

I grew up in Austin, Texas and we had the most gorgeous old movie palace called The Paramount -- mentioned above. I have no idea how it got renovated but as far as I know it's still a thriving combo performing arts theater/revival movie house. I think my mom saw Tony Bennett there. I must have seen Singing in the Rain there about a dozen times. Nothing compares to the old film house experience.

Don't even get me started about all the old rundown/closed theaters on Broadway in downtown LA. It's a cultural tragedy that greater Los Angeles has let so many of its treasures fall apart.

Mister Earl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mister Earl said...

About 10-15 years ago it seemed to me that the LA Conservancy was involved in renovating the old theaters down on Broadway. A friend of mine was involved in that and she took me to a couple shows at the time. Did that movement fall apart? Seemed like it was going pretty strong at the time.

Trish said...

Laurie...one of SoPas's gems...there are SO many, but The Rialto...oh my!

I have lots of memories, seeing double features that languished the day into night. Popcorn, darkness, the vastness of the theater.

I suspect folks these days forget the sticky floors and springs in seats that occasionally hit you where the sun don't shine...allure of an old time theater.

I remember the first movie I saw there with a neighbor friend. I remember the last one I saw 15+ years ago..."4 Weddings and A Funeral" just days after my mother died. We all needed a dark place to let my father cry for a woman he'd divorced a decade earlier. The W H Auden poem "Funeral Blues" just tore us all apart. Despite my parents differences, they loved each other and were each others North, South, East and West.

I do hope the Rialto can be saved. Not just for my memories, but it IS SoPas...old fashioned like things used to be, maybe not the shiniest penny in the bowl, but still ticking like a Timex.

altadenahiker said...

Laurie, are you thinking...maybe...

dbdubya said...

Scott Feldman at the Chamber of Commerce knows as much as anyone about the status of the lease and what the Chamber and City have done in trying to secure the Rialto for renovation.

Laurie said...

Thanks, everybody. I just watched this week's episode of Mad Men and, if I'm not mistaken, I believe a pivotal scene was shot in the parking lot right next to The Rialto. (Paging Joan Aguado, South Pasadena Film Liason and expert on all things South Pas Cinematic!) Needless to say, The Rialto is very special.

Not thinking, Altadenahiker, as much as dreaming... Any ideas?

Until tomorrow, everyone.

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Petrea said...

Laurie, take a look at the Egyptian Theater in DeKalb, Illinois, my home town: http://www.egyptiantheatre.org/. It's a success story as these old places go.

When I was 14 the Egyptian was in decline. My first job was selling tickets there and they were showing third run B movies. There were still old props from vaudeville shows backstage, but patrons complained of rats. It closed soon after.

By the time I'd finished college, citizens who cared took up the cause and started fund-raising.

By the time I had my first professional acting job with the Second City National Touring company, we performed on the Egyptian stage. One of my biggest thrills.

Everyone in South Pas wants to save the Rialto and will help. They just need a leader to rally them. Someone has to start and not stop. The Egyptian had Barbara Kummerfeldt. She was my piano teacher when I was a kid. Who knew she'd turn out to be a hero? DeKalb (and I) will never forget her.

Laurie said...

Petrea, that's such a great story. I'd love to see The Rialto join your Egyptian theater as a success story!

Now you've got me all fired up...

Petrea said...

You don't have to do it by yourself. Barbara K. had a committee to inspire!