The Rialto in the 1950s.
Alan said the booth was enlarged so that live sound could be done in the future. He said he also hopes to eventually get a retractable movie screen so that the original stage can be used for live performances.
The balcony, which is currently closed, will be changed into two private screening areas that can be rented. Alan said this was part of the “bells and whistles” part of the renovations. “We have plenty of stuff to do with the operational stuff before we get to the bells and whistles.”
The apartment upstairs is also under construction and will eventually be inhabited by the theatre’s managers Lisa Aragon and Glen Blake.
Alan said it is also his hope to either reconstruct or purchase a new marque for the front of the building.
The facade of the building will also be restored in the future.
“It is a work in progress, it isn’t perfect, it isn’t done,” he said. “But, the more people come the more we can do.”
He pointed out that the Winslow Theatre was the only functional theatre in North Eastern Arizona. “We hope it brings life into downtown Winslow again,” he said.
According to information researched by Janice Griffith, director of Winslow’s Old Trails Museum, the theatre was originally built as a theatre to house live entertainment and opened it’s doors on July 19, 1927 as the Rialto Theatre. The stage was 40 feet wide, 20 feet deep and 20 feet high.
The theatre also featured a retractable screen to show movies on, just as Alan hopes to do in the future.
Joseph E. Rickards and Harry L. Nace Sr. were the managers of the theatre, as well several across Arizona. Nace Sr. eventually became the sole manager and after his retirement in 1949, his son Harry Nace Jr. took over the management until after 1979. Nace Sr. died in 1953 and Nace Jr. died in May 2002.
The Rialto was equipped with “fine opera chairs and an air conditioning system”
The Rialto showed silent films until it’s first “talking” picture in 1929. A $20,000 sound system was installed and the first sound picture to be showed in Winslow was Broadway Melody.
Griffith also remembers the theatre from her own childhood and stories she has been told.
One thing she recalls from her own experience was the Carnation Kids’ Carnival. She explained that if you could “convince your mom to buy Carnation products, you could get in free.” “And between shows they would draw ticket numbers and give away really good prizes.”
She also remembered being older and her father taking each of the families three daughters to see which ever show they wanted to see. “It was our alone time with him,” she said. “There are a lot of memories in that theatre.”
Griffith also said she has had people tell her of days before she was born. She relayed a story told to her by a Winslow woman, the late Louise Lancaster.
Lancaster said her whole senior class, the Class of 1937 from McNary High School, came to Winslow and saw a movie and then had their senior banquet at the La Posada Hotel.
“That was a big thing to do, go the movies and then to La Posada,” Griffith said. “And, now people can do that again.”
“The Rialto was such a big chunk of our life in the past, and it is absolutely thrilling to see it come back,” she added.
Alan said this week’s movie brought in over 500 viewers into the theatre for the weekend’s three 7 p.m. showings and two matinees.
Next week’s movie will be Sweet Home Alabama, featuring Reece Witherspoon.
Admission into the evening shows are $6 per person.
For matinee shows, patron pay only $4, as well as children 12 and under and seniors 65 and older for any showing.
Alan added to watch for the second installment in the Harry Potter series in the near future.
He said it might be showing in Winslow during December. By having the movie start a month after its opening date, he can make a better profit and not be required to show it for as long.
Be sure to watch the Winslow Mail and The Reminder for updates on upcoming shows and special events.