The Rialto's history begins in 1919, when construction began on the new $100,000 theater to be located on downtown Loveland's main street. Noted architect, Robert K. Fuller, was hired by local bank president, William C. Vorreiter to design the theater.
The Loveland Daily Herald newspaper hailed the Rialto as, "the finest theater north of Denver", when it opened in May, 1920. The "art nouveau" theater had 1,040 wooden seats, a balcony, dressing rooms and an orchestra pit. Built primarily to show silent films, the Rialto also hosted traveling vaudeville shows, local talent contests and graduations.
In 1935 the Rialto was purchased by the Gibraltar Theater Group who remodeled the theater and put one of their most energetic and talented managers, Ted Thompson and his wife Mabel, in charge. The Rialto thrived under their management and enjoyed full houses during Hollywood's golden era. The Thompsons left the theater in 1947, but remained in Loveland and were instrumental in founding the city's valentine re-mailing program.
The Rialto changed ownership several times between 1947 and 1977, when it was converted into a "mini-mall" of retail shops and offices. All traces of the theater's earlier glory disappeared under cardboard and paneling. After years of being marginally successful, the mini-mall closed and the Rialto was left essentially vacant.
In 1987, the Loveland Downtown Development Authority, under the direction of Felicia Harmon, identified the old Rialto Theater as a cornerstone project to help revitalize the historic downtown area. Plans were drawn up to restore the theater to its 1920 grandeur. A non-profit organization, the Friends of the Rialto was formed to oversee the restoration project. In 1988, the Rialto was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
After many years of fundraising and thousands of hours of volunteer labor the beautifully restored Rialto Theater reopened as a community performing arts center in February, 1996. The DDA turned over operation of the theater to the City of Loveland in May, 1998.
Today the historic Rialto Theater is a thriving, 450 seat performing arts center in downtown Loveland. The Rialto hosts everything from classical music concerts to rock bands, children's theater to classic silent films. Local theater and choral groups present their seasons here and businesses hold seminars and training meetings in the theater. The Rialto is where Loveland's dreams take center stage!