Denison Main Street in the Early 1900's

The Rialto Theater opened its doors on August 4, 1920. Located on Main Street in historic downtown Denison, Texas, it was just one of many theaters of its day in the downtown area, billing itself as “Denison’s All-Time Greatest Movie Palace”. Built by L.M. Rideouton, it was sold to the Interstate Theaters chain in 1935 which operated the theater through the 1960s. It was then transferred to local ownership until it closed in 1977.

The largest theater in the small town (about 20,000 population) of Denison, it was the first run movie palace in the city from the time it was built in 1920, and it opened on August 4, 1920, billing itself as “Denison’s All-Time Greatest Movie Palace”. It was built by L.M. Rideouton but was sold to the Interstate Theaters chain in 1935. On August 25, 1948 the World Premiere of Howard Hawks western “Red River” starring John Wayne was held at the Rialto Theater. Interstate operated the theater through the 1960’s, but by the time it closed in August 1977, it was locally owned.


Source: The Denison Herald, September 16, 1919


In its earliest days, The Rialto Theater featured vaudeville shows and a full orchestra. Through its rich history the theater has seen appearances by great American entertainers, including The Marx Brothers, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, John Wayne, and Elvis Presley, not to mention countless feature film classics over the years. Opening again in the early 1980’s, it succumb once more, this time to the multiplex cinema theaters of the day.

“The highly anticipated Rialto Theatre (far right) was opened on August 4, 1920, and cost an estimated $150,000 upon completion. The impressive three-story structure featured a ground floor arcade and entrance with upper floors containing keystones, brackets, and an elegant concrete balustrade. The first feature film shown at the grand opening was Out of the Storm and played before a standing-room-only audience. The most notable event for the theatre occurred August 25, 1948, when the motion picture Red River held its world premiere at the theatre. The Rialto served as Denison’s longest-running movie house until the last film was shown on August 31, 1977. The theatre passed through several owners in the ensuing years, serving as a cinema and live-music venue. While the building has undergone some changes, most notably to the ground floor, it has recently been restored to its original splendor, and its neon marquee once again lights up downtown.”  - Postcard History Series by Brian Hander