crowd watching firemen spraying water on burning building

Fire at the Rialto Theatre, 1925

On March 22nd, 1925, a blaze that started in the basement quickly engulfed the building and destroyed the Rialto Theatre. Fire companies from all around, including Saratoga, responded. The damage was extensive and reconstruction was necessary. The owners however, turned the devastating event into a positive. They decided to make a real investment in the theatre and turn it into a “movie palace”. When it reopened on November 21, 1925, with Charlie Chaplin’s famed “Gold Rush”, the transformation proved to be amazing.

New York City designer Carl Wistrom was engaged to completely remake the décor. He brought in a color palate of driftwood gray and lavender in the fabrics and on the walls. The ceiling was done in pale blue, emerald and ivory, with raised plaster ornamentation crafted by artisan Arthur Hasley of Montreal. The balcony was raised which added 200 additional seats, bringing the total capacity up to 1,300. All new equipment was purchased including a wider screen and a Peerless-Arc projector.

CM 78.3.250