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The Rialto Theatre, Coventry Street, London

Formerly - The West End Cinema Theatre - Later - The Grosvenor Casino - And The Cafe De Paris

Other Leicester Square Theatres and Cinemas

The former Rialto Cinema, Coventry Street, now a Casino, in a photograph taken in May 2011 - Photo M.L.

Above - The former Rialto Cinema, Coventry Street, now a Casino, in a photograph taken in May 2011 - Photo M.L.

The side elevation of the former Rialto Theatre, now a Casino, in a photograph taken in May 2011 - Photo M.LSee this Theatre on Google StreetviewThe Rialto Theatre was situated in Coventry Street, Leicester Square, opposite the Prince of Wales Theatre, and was originally opened as the West End Cinema Theatre on the 18th of March 1913, in the presence of Prince and Princess Alexander of Teck. A feature at the opening was the showing on screen of a film of the royal party arriving at the Theatre amongst cheering crows just one and a half hours after it had actually happened.

The Theatre was designed in the French Renaissance style by the architects Hippolyte Blanc, Leonard Allen, and Samuel Beverley, with plasterwork by Horace Gilbert.

The Theatre, which cost some £130,000 to construct and fit out, and had the first Neon Signs in central London, had an intimate auditorium on two levels with seating for 684 people; 452 in the stalls and 232 in the circle.

Right - The side elevation of the former Rialto Theatre, now a Casino, in a photograph taken in May 2011 - Photo M. L.

The Theatre also had a small cafe inside the first floor foyer which was situated behind the facade's tall centre windows, and a large restaurant called the 'Elysee' in the basement, today in use as 'The Cafe de Paris'.

Still extant today externally the Theatre's main entrance has an interesting, if quite narrow facade, although around the corner in Rupert Street it has an intriguing side elevation which reveals part of the shape of its original auditorium.

A photograph of Prince and Princess Alexander of Teck being presented with a bouquet by Eileen Gilbert at the opening of the West End Cinema Theatre, the frontage of which is shown inset - From The Luton Reporter, March 24th 1913.The Bioscope reported on the opening of the West End Cinema Theatre in their 27th of March 1913 edition saying:- 'A noteworthy addition to London's ever growing and popular picture resorts is the beautiful edifice erected by the West-End Electric Theatres, Limited, on the site of the old Globe Restaurant, in Coventry Street, W., which was formally inaugurated by Prince and Princess Alexander of 'Teck, on the 18th inst. Built at a cost of £130,000, this handsome structure, with its frontage of Portland stone, will, for its grace of outline and The sumptuousness of the internal decorations, vie with any house of amusement in this or any other city.

Left - A photograph of Prince and Princess Alexander of Teck being presented with a bouquet by Eileen Gilbert, the daughter of the Theatre's architect, at the opening of the West End Cinema Theatre, the frontage of which is shown inset - From The Luton Reporter, March 24th 1913.

The spacious proscenium opening is heavily draped, and is some 8 ft. in front of the screen, which is framed in black and fitted with sliding curtains. The general colour scheme has been carried out in cream and gold, with hangings and upholsteries of old rose, the whole effect being dainty to a degree - while an excellent view of the screen can be obtained from all parts of the house.

A Programme cover for the film 'Cohens and Kelly's in Atlantic City' being shown at the Rialto Theatre in 1946.A first-class restaurant is attached to the theatre, and a feature will be made of afternoon tea served in the foyer. The most modern methods have been adopted for the heating, lighting and ventilation of the building throughout, while a vacuum cleaning plant has been installed.

Right - A Programme cover for the film 'Cohens and Kelly's in Atlantic City' being shown at the Rialto Theatre, formerly the West End Cinema Theatre, in 1946.

The theatre will be open daily from 1 p.m. until midnight, necessitating the engagement of two distinct orchestras, for the members of which a suite of rooms, including a library, have been provided.

We heartily congratulate Mr. W. Lacon Threlford and his co-directors upon their enterprise, and Mr. Horace Gilbert, F.R.I.B.A., the well-known architect, whose latest achievement is in every way worthy of his high reputation.'

The above text in quotes (edited) was first published in The Bioscope, 27th of March 1913.

The West End Cinema Theatre had first opened on the 18th of March 1913, but was later renamed the Rialto Theatre in 1924, after being taken over by Universal. It is today one of the oldest Cinema buildings in London's West End to have survived, it functioned as a Cinema from its inception right up to 1982, although it did have a brief closure in 1941 due to bomb damage during the second world war, but it reopened the following year.

An advertisement for the Trade Presentation of the (now lost) silent film 'Borrowed Husbands' at the newly renamed Rialto Theatre in May 1924 - From The Bioscope, 1st May 1924.

Above - An advertisement for the Trade Presentation of the (now lost) silent film 'Borrowed Husbands' at the newly renamed Rialto Theatre in May 1924 - From The Bioscope, 1st May 1924.

An advertisement for the Film 'The Blue Angel' at the Rialto Theatre, Coventry Street in 1930 - From the Weekly Kinema Guide of 1930.In January 1982 the Cinema was closed due to its lease expiring and then it remained closed and boarded up for many years, despite a Grade II Listing in 1989. After 12 years of closure and a very uncertain future, a Trust was eventually set up to try and save the Theatre from redevelopment and restore it to its former glory.

Right - An advertisement for Emil Jannings' 'first marvellous Talkie' Film 'The Blue Angel', also starring the famous Marlene Dietrich, along with a Film about the scientific theory of evolution called 'The Mystery of Life', both shown at the Rialto Theatre, Coventry Street in 1930 - From the Weekly Kinema Guide of 1930.

The Trust, founded in 1994, was called the 'Rialto Cinema Trust', and their remit at the time was to 'safeguard the future of this last remaining example of Edwardian "Super" Cinema in London's West End'. The Trust created a brochure to support their intentions, which you can see in full below - Courtesy Martin Clark.

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Above - A 'Rialto Cinema Trust' Brochure from 1994 supporting their intentions to restore the Rialto Cinema to its former glory - Courtesy Martin Clark. Swipe Left or Right, or Click the Arrows and Thumbnails, to see the whole programme.

Sadly the Trust's plans were never to come to fruition and the Cinema remained dark for many years, with just the Cafe de Paris left open in the building's basement, until the Cinema was eventually converted into a branch of the Fashion Cafe, and then later into a Chicago Rock Cafe in 2002. Later still the Cinema was converted into a Casino, which is still in operation today. The Casino conversion saw the Grade II Listed Building being restored so that its elaborate interior is thankfully still in evidence today. The Cafe de Paris is also still situated in the basement of the former Theatre and is also a very popular venue.

The Rialto Cinema, Coventry Street, during the showing of the film 'The Seven Year Itch' with Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell in August 1955 - Photograph by F. C. Hailstone - Courtesy Allan Hailstone.

Above - The Rialto Cinema, Coventry Street, during the showing of the film 'The Seven Year Itch' with Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell in August 1955 - Photograph by F. C. Hailstone - Courtesy Allan Hailstone.

The Rialto Cinema, Coventry Street, during the showing of the film 'Black Widow' in a photograph taken on the 11th of April 1955 - Courtesy Allan Hailstone.

Above - The Rialto Cinema, Coventry Street, during the showing of the film 'Black Widow' in a photograph taken on the 11th of April 1955 - Courtesy Allan Hailstone.

The same view of the Rialto Cinema, Coventry Street as the 1955 photo shown above - Photo M.L. May 2011

Above - The same view of the Rialto Cinema, Coventry Street as the 1955 photo shown above - Photo ML May 2011

Some of the information on this page was gleaned from the excellent Cinema Treasures Website.

If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

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