A historic South Pasadena theater featured in the movie "La La Land" is undergoing a revival. Mosaic, a church with several locations in the Los Angeles area, has leased the Rialto Theatre from owner Izek Shomof, with plans to restore it.
The historic South Pasadena theater was built in 1925. Lewis A. Smith designed it, along with dozens of other movie houses in Southern California. The Rialto was a single-screen theater that presented a combination of movies and live vaudeville. It fell into disrepair after its previous owner discontinued regular maintenance, and the building closed.
Mosaic signed a fifteen-year lease with the new owner, who purchase the Rialto in 2015. After completing initial renovations and receiving a permit from the city, Mosaic started hosting services in the auditorium late last year.
A look back at Historic South Pasadena theater
The Rialto reportedly opened with the premiere of Universal Pictures movie, "Whatever Happened to Jones?" The theater contained a house organ for use in silent films. A few years later, the Rialto transitioned to showing films with sound.
The historic theater also hosted vaudeville acts in the 1930w, and it still has a fly-gallery, dressing rooms, and a green room.
In 1978, the Rialto was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Star News reported that the last movie shown before it closed as "The Simpsons Movie" in 2007. The Rialto was proclaimed one of the last single-screen movie theaters in Southern California.
According to a Pasadena Star News article, the Rialto Theatre was often considered an oddity for blending Spanish and Egyptian revival styles.
The Rialto: Plans for the future
Mosaic's new place of worship has been popular, with the number of attendees steadily growing. But Mosaic has larger goals, such as turning the Rialto into an attraction that draws both locals and tourists -- not just churchgoers.
Mosaic hired Architectural Resources Group of Pasadena, which wrote a plan for restoration and presented it to the city's Cultural Heritage Commission. The group reported the Rialto's auditorium was mostly intact, with seating for about 1,150 people.
According to the Star News article, plans are in the works to restore and fill two side-spaces attached to the building. They would be opened to the public seven days a week. One space could potentially become a high-end restaurant, and the other a cafe selling coffee and baked goods.
The historic South Pasadena theater isn't likely to show many movies, except on special occasions, but it's already showing signs of new life under Mosaic's leadership.