Updated: Jul 26, 2018
Driving down the Boulevard, you can’t miss the bright red sign with the words “Rialto” beaconing from the above the marquee. The Rialto Theatre is currently, and has always been, a staple in the Boulevard District. The retro ticket booth and colorful facade are telltale signs of the venue’s rich history.
Even the name had important significance in the past. The term “rialto” reigns from a medieval covered bridge in the Italian city of Venice. Here, novelty shops were built and the first entertainment district was born. “Rialtos” came to be plazas where people could go for fun and enjoyment. Theaters bearing this name began popping up in the early 1900s worldwide and a select few exist to this day — including the one in Kenmore.
In Akron, the Rialto Theatre thrived on the Boulevard and was adored by residents as a staple of the neighborhood until it closed in the 1950s. In the height of the rise in popularity of films, the Rialto was one of the earliest venues to feature “silver screen” movies in the United States, which makes sense: the silver screen was invented by Kenmore resident Harry Coulter Williams. Today, the Rialto Theatre’s legacy lives on as the “silver screen” cinema-turned something new.
Brothers and bandmates Nate and Seth Vaill have turned the building into a recording studio, full bar, and event space. Together they are restoring the Rialto Theatre to how it looked in the glory days, beaconing with a bright red marquee and historic ticket office. The studio has recorded a mecca of local artists, including Ampichino, King Locust, and Ben Gage. In addition, they are promoting arts in the Kenmore and greater Akron community by hosting a variety of events, including music concerts, comedy shows, theater performances, art exhibits, swing dancing lessons, and more.
With renovations starting in 2010, the Rialto Theatre is constantly changing and evolving to this day. What started as a warehouse has now transformed into a top-notch recording studio, a thriving and eclectic event space, and cozy little bar. But, that’s not all the Vaill brothers have planned for the venue. The new ticket box outside will be finished by the end of July and will resemble the old one. In addition, they are adding a lobby area called the Rialto “Living Room,” as a space for acoustic acts. In the future, they plan to become the Boulevard’s first breakfast spot by offering coffee and food in the morning.
"We wanted to create a place where people could experience anything from hip hop to bands to theater to rap battles," said Nate. "The Rialto is a safe and fun environment where the community can come together and experience art and music."
To see what’s events are happening next at the Rialto Theatre, visit https://www.therialtotheatre.com/calendar/.