The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

The Rialto Theater

Open August 30, 1917-January 3, 1953.

    After weeks of expectancy, it finally has been determined that Medford shall have an attractively appointed, admirably finished and furnished and happily modern theater, involving an expenditure of $25,000 in structure and equipment and a $60,000 obligation for the entire term of the lease. This theater, to be owned and managed by A. J. Moran and H. L. Percy, recently of San Diego, California, will be opened to the public about July 10 to 15 this summer, and will be known as The Rialto.
    The negotiations were concluded satisfactorily Saturday between Messrs. Moran & Percy, the theatrical men, and C. W. Palm, Alfred Weeks and Mrs. Edith A. Orr, of this city, with whom the deal was perfected. The general contract has been awarded to contractor B. F. Fifer, and work has already begun. Architect Frank C. Clark prepared the plans which, in itself, is assurance of most artistic effects in arrangement and finish.
    The Rialto will be located in the Palm and the Weeks & McGowan buildings, with an entrance at 112 West Main Street. The total seating capacity of the theater will be 1,000. The auditorium will seat 850, and the wicker lodges will seat 150. The auditorium seats will be leather upholstered, individual unit chairs, each chair to be provided with an air cushion and to carry the firm monogram M.&P. Co.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 14, 1917, page 4

    The Rialto Theater building, involving a cost of $25,000, including all modern fixtures, machinery and furniture, will soon be ready for use, the work having been delayed somewhat at various times since it was begun by scarcity of mechanical help. Messrs. Moran & Percy, proprietors of the new playhouse, have had a force of from eight to twenty-two men at work on that structure since the 15th of May, affording a considerable payroll.
"Invest $80,000 in Medford Business," Medford Sun, August 10, 1917

Medford Mail Tribune, August 29, 1917
    The handsome and well-appointed new Rialto Theater was formally opened last night to capacity audiences and with many turned away for lack of room.
    Last night and today nothing but high praise was heard for the theater, its splendid arrangement and appointments and its opening attraction. Especially were the audiences pleased with the ventilating system which provides continuous fresh air, and the comfortable and commodious seats.
    Messrs. Percy and Moran, the owners and managers of the theater, were the recipients of many warm congratulations.
    A much-appreciated feature of both shows last night was the music by the symphonic orchestral organ, which was played by a skilled professional.
    Rex Beach's "The Barrier," the opening attraction, will be given today and Saturday with matinees at 2 p.m. and evening shows at 7 and 9 p.m.
Medford Mail Tribune, August 31, 1917, page 2

Medford Sun, September 16, 1917

    One year ago Messrs. A. J. Moran and H. L. Percy opened the doors of their up-to-date theater, the Rialto, and it has been one of the most popular places of amusement in this part of the state ever since. "The Barrier" was their opening bill, and they are celebrating their first anniversary with an unusually strong war picture, "The Unbeliever."
    The success of this theater is not only due to its modern and artistic arrangement, its up-to-date equipment and its splendid symphonic orchestra organ, but to the untiring efforts of its owners and managers, Messrs. Moran and Percy, who are experienced in their line of business, have given high-class programs by some of the world's stars, and know how to treat the public. Another feature that is appreciated by all the patrons is the pleasing way in which they are treated by Mrs. Percy at the box office.
    A few months ago Mr. Moran joined the colors, and Mr. Percy has had exclusive management. He says their line of pictures and stars for this year is even better than before and that the people will get the best what is, at the Rialto.
Medford Mail Tribune, August 30, 1918, page 4

One Year Ago Today
    The Rialto Theater concludes today its first anniversary of public entertainment for the people of Southern Oregon. It has been a year of triumph for this modern playhouse, notwithstanding the general confusion and uncertainty in the economic and industrial world and the trials necessarily injected into the first year's experience of any new amusement institution. The gratifying measure of success attained and enjoyed by its proprietors presages another year of greater triumph in every way.
    A year ago today the Rialto Theater presented to the local public Rex Beach's most virile and astounding photoplay, "The Barrier." Tomorrow, the first day of its second year, it will present the Edison super-feature of romance and action, "The Unbeliever." Between these two marvelous productions it has given its patrons the best pictures obtainable during the period of its matriculation. While making for itself a prominent place, not only among the thousands of patrons of the motion picture business, but among the exchanges with whom its contracts are made for film sensations, it has, on occasions, been compelled to yield to the exigencies of the situation in selecting its productions; but, having firmly established its leading place with film exchanges, it now enters upon a program and policy to give the local world the supreme triumphs in production by the big world outside.
    By a clean, candid and persistent desire to give to local amusement patrons the best productions exhibited in the great cities, it has frequently been compelled to ignore the incident of profit, directly; but, indirectly, increased patronage has shown that that policy will ultimately produce the reward it deserves. Therefore, our chief design has been to establish firmly the high character of the Rialto as a theater conducted for a high-class clientele.
    The success thus deserved and attained has enabled us to transmit to the war-tax department of the federal government large sums of money paid to the Rialto box office as war tax. In addition to the satisfaction thus enjoyed our patrons have realized the gratification that comes in "picture contact" with the great forces that are now remaking the world.
Rialto advertisement, Medford Mail Tribune, August 30, 1918, page 6

The Rialto, center, circa 1918.

Mayor Gates Issues Orders To Close Theaters, Meetings, Etc.,
As Precaution Against Spanish Influenza--
Asks Cooperation of All Citizens--Several Suspected Cases.
    On account of the epidemic of Spanish influenza, now sweeping over the country, and after consulting with the physicians of the city, we have decided, beginning next Monday, October 14th, to close all places of amusements, theaters, moving picture shows, etc., churches, lodges, schools and all public meetings of every description, where people congregate--same to be in effect until said epidemic has subsided. Believing that this disease is easier prevented than cured, we respectfully request the people of this city to cheerfully abide by this order and hereby assist not only our city, but the entire country in stamping out this dreaded epidemic.        (Signed)
Mayor of Medford.
City Health Officer.
    To prevent the further spread of the dread Spanish influenza, of which four positive cases are known to exist in Medford and many others are suspected, the city authorities clamped down the lid this noon, to go into effect Monday morning, ordering the closing of churches, theaters, schools and all public meetings and gatherings of every description. This drastic rule will be in effect until all danger of the epidemic getting a foothold in Medford is past.
    The action was not decided on until the local situation had been thoroughly canvassed by Mayor Gates and Dr. Pickel. Every physician in the city was consulted, and the opinion was unanimous that every precaution should be taken before it was too late. A number of cases and suspected cases were also reported from various parts of the county.
Reports Are Alarming
    New reports of the alarming spread of the disease throughout the United States and the large death rate accompanying also had a great influence in deciding the local officials to act. A telephone message from Dunsmuir yesterday afternoon, stating that there had been 37 deaths already and that by midnight last night 14 more were expected to die, also had a bearing. Several citizens from Dunsmuir were in Medford yesterday seeking nurses to assist in caring for influenza patients.
    Health officer Pickel advises all persons to cover their mouths and noses with their hands or handkerchiefs when coughing and sneezing and not to expectorate on the streets or floors. This will go a long ways towards preventing an epidemic here.
    The closing order will stop the work of the Red Cross and many patriotic and public activities, and will entail a loss on the moving picture managements. Manager Percy of the Rialto Theater takes a sensible view of the situation and approves of the closing order of the city officials. He too believes that an ounce of prevention exercised now will prevent much misery and financial hardship later on. Mr. Percy holds that the picture theaters will only suffer a temporary loss, as when the danger is over and the closing rule rescinded, the public will be very picture hungry and will crowd the theaters to make up for lost time.
Warning from Dr. Porter
    An intensely interesting letter was received by the Mail Tribune today from Dr. E. H. Porter, who is at Worcester, Mass., describing the epidemic in the East, the symptoms and effects of the disease, preventive measures, etc., and advising that Medford take precautions. The letter follows.
    "Your issue of September 28 contains an editorial on the subject of Spanish influenza, and from its tone will lead your readers to believe that the disease is not a serious one. Now, do all in your power to eradicate that belief. It is the most terrible epidemic ever visiting America and is very fatal. It is a new disease caused by an heretofore unknown bacilli, but has recently been isolated.
    "The onset of the disease is very similar to that of an ordinary attack of grippe, but much more sudden and severe. Many cases begin as a pneumonia, while others are sick several days before pneumonia symptoms appear. Those beginning as a pneumonia are usually dead in 48 hours. The pathological findings in the dead are very similar to those found in the lungs of those dead from drowning, with the addition of erosions in the bronchial tubes. The vaccines and serums which have heretofore been used in the treatment of grippe are worthless in this disease. During the past week we have secured a small supply of vaccine made from the new bacilli and have inoculated some of the physicians and nurses who are in attendance on influenza cases, but up to date cannot say what the effect will be. Neither can we do so until the vaccine is obtainable in larger quantities which will require several days longer. Am in hopes I can secure enough to send some to the Medford physicians before the epidemic reaches there, and reach there it will, and then look out.
Boston Has 80,000 Cases
    "The disease appeared in Boston early in September, and on the 11th there were 11 deaths. From that date to noon October 5, there had been 2270 deaths, with over 80,000 cases. Throughout New England this is the story told in every town. Every church, school, saloon, billiard hall and theater are closed, and public gatherings are tabooed. To prevent congestion on street cars during the rush hours of business, the health boards have ordered certain classes of business to open and close at certain hours. One sneeze or a cough in a crowded car from an infected person, and there are 20 new cases. The slogan in this section is 'cover that cough and sneeze.'
    "During the past ten days I have been doing my bit at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. That large institution has closed its doors to all but accident cases and influenza patients, and it is more than full. I have been through several epidemics of cholera, smallpox, yellow fever and bubonic plague, and in those the attendants could protect themselves, but in this epidemic the attendants have suffered severely, and the only protection possible is to wear masks of gauze over the face. Calls have gone out to other sections for doctors and nurses, and several states west of the Hudson River have sent details, and yet the demand far exceeds the supply. In one large hospital at this place (Worcester), with 50 nurses on duty, there were over 40 down at one time, with several deaths.
Be Careful in Sneezing
    "As the disease is an easy one carried through the air, by the particles of sputum thrown off by a sneeze or cough, when it appears in Medford, if the health officer will isolate, isolate and again isolate the infected, close the schools, churches, theaters, etc., fine everyone who does not cover a sneeze or cough or expectorates on the street, you may escape a severe epidemic. Children and the aged do not seem as susceptible to the disease as the robust middle-aged person."
Medford Mail Tribune, October 12, 1918, page 1

    There were no indications today as to how long the ban on public gatherings would be in force, but it was thought that it would not be lifted for a week yet. Mayor Gates says the closing order will be in force until it is certain that all danger of the Spanish influenza getting a foothold in Medford is past.
    The mayor said this forenoon that one physician had informed him that he had six patients ill with the disease, only one of which could be regarded as serious.
The closing orders of the mayor and City Health Officer Pickel were just a day ahead of orders issued by the national board of health. The following telegram was received Sunday afternoon by Mayor Gates from the state board of health:
    "By order of the surgeon general of the United States Public Health Service you are directed to discontinue all public meetings and places of public amusement on the appearance of the present worldwide epidemic of Spanish influenza in your city. You are directed to urge upon everyone the necessity of avoiding crowds, unnecessary street car traffic and shopping until the present epidemic has subsided."
    The mayor's prohibiting of public gatherings does not apply to the public library, he stated today, as patrons only walk in, get what books they want and then depart. Therefore there would be no crowd congregating there at any time. Many church, society and lodge meetings set for the early part of the week have been called off.
    Although there are a number of cases of suspected cases of influenza in the city, the disease may be said to have gained no foothold here as yet.
Medford Mail Tribune, October 14, 1918, page 4

    All Medford merchants were agreed yesterday that the weekend was one of the quietest in recent history. Because of the influenza epidemic people in the country do not come to town any more than they can help, and when they do come stay as short a time as possible. In fact, the people in the country are far more excited over the epidemic than those in the towns where influenza cases are known to exist. One Medford citizen having official business in the country was nearly kicked off the premises of a certain ranch on Thursday who said he didn't want any influenza carriers on his property and thought Medford people ought to stay at home until the scare is over.
"Local and Personal," Medford Sun, October 27, 1918, page 2

    If the influenza epidemic in Medford continues to subside, Mayor Gates announced yesterday, he will raise the quarantine a week from tomorrow,. There are many cases in the city, but the majority of them are not virulent and closely resemble hard colds.
"Local and Personal," Medford Sun, November 10, 1918, page 2

    Unless there is a sudden and unexpected recrudescence of the "flu," the quarantine will be raised in Medford next Saturday night, Nov. 23d. No new cases were reported yesterday, and for the first time since the scare started local merchants had a busy day. Many of the stores reported the best trade in many months, hundreds of shoppers coming in from the rural districts. It is generally believed there will be a brisk Christmas trade in all lines this year, as the end of the war has cleared the atmosphere and people feel like loosening up.
    The Medford theaters are preparing big programs for the openings Nov. 24, after being closed for four weeks. There will be three picture houses now instead of two, the Liberty being the new one to be opened where the Star formerly was, under management of Henry Harcke. Watch for the announcements and get in line after a long rest.
"Local and Personal," Medford Sun, November 17, 1918, page 2

    After being dark for several weeks the Page and Rialto theaters will be opened tomorrow beginning at 2:15. Both houses have prepared unusually good programs for the openings, and will have excellent music.
    The lovers of the movies will be glad to have the opportunity again of seeing their favorite stars, and the theaters will no doubt be crowded. The usual Saturday evening crowds will be out on the streets again tomorrow, and you are expected to join the happy throng.
    The new Liberty Theater will be opened Thanksgiving Day with a big matinee and under the management of Henry Harcke.
Medford Mail Tribune, November 22, 1918, page 6

    The "flu" lid flew off last night, with record attendances at both the Page and Rialto theaters. Both the theaters had been renovated and touched up during the quarantine, and the crowded houses looked like old times. The appreciation of the movies was so keen that early audiences at the theater proceeded almost in a body to the other. Several dances were also given last night, and today for the first time in six weeks the churches will open, which is expected to result in similar record-breaking congregations in the celebration of the Sabbath.
"Local and Personal," Medford Sun, November 24, 1918, page 2

Medford Health Officers See End of Influenza Epidemic.
    MEDFORD, Or., Dec. 26.--(Special.)--City Health Officer E. B. Pickel today modified the flu mask ordinance requiring the wearing of the mask only in theaters, churches and other places where public gatherings are held. Until today the masks had been required in all stores both by employees and by shoppers.
    Originally the masks were required on the streets, but with the steady decline of the epidemic this provision was withdrawn several days ago.
    No new cases of the disease were reported Christmas day, the first time since the inception of the epidemic three weeks ago.

Morning Oregonian, Portland, August 10, 1918, page 4

Mask Enthusiasts' Lose Chance to Test Theory; Ordinance Now Useless.
    Mask enthusiasts have lost their opportunity of demonstrating the efficacy of their favorite preventive by the proclamation from the city health officer declaring the influenza epidemic as "ceased and terminated." The ordinance, which was passed by the city council requiring the wearing of masks and which was to go into effect 30 days after its enactment, is therefore now useless.
    Only 19 new cases of influenza were reported this morning and no deaths. Dr. J. G. Able, city health officer, stated optimistically this morning that the danger is practically over, but each case will be strictly quarantined as heretofore.
Jacksonville Post, February 15, 1919, page 1

    H. L. Percy and A. J. Moran, the proprietor and manager of the Rialto Theater, have branched out in the moving picture business and with several others now control moving picture and show houses in several Oregon cities under the name of the Globe Theaters Company. The company plans to control moving  amusement houses in other Oregon cities in addition to the ones they already have, and also plan to build a new $25,000 theater in a city not far from Medford.
    Incidental to the company's latest acquisition, the Antlers Theater in Roseburg, which is the largest theater in that city, has been purchased by the Rialto management. The people of Medford will regret to learn that H. L. Percy, wife and two children will soon move to Roseburg, where Mr. Percy will assume personal direction of the Antlers Theater, which he will operate on the same high-class plane as he and Mr. Moran have conducted the Rialto. Mr. Percy will leave for Roseburg next Monday and Mrs. Percy, who has been cashier of the Rialto ever since that house was opened, and the children will go a week later. Mr. and Mrs. Percy have made many friends during their two years residence here.
    In addition to having the management of the Antlers Theater Mr. Percy will have full charge of the advertising and exploitation of all the theaters now under control of the company. Upon his departure here Mr. Moran will assume the sole management of the Rialto. During Mr. Moran's absence in war service the Rialto management was looked after alone by Mr. Percy.
    Messrs. Moran and Percy opened the Rialto, which they built, on Aug. 30, 1917, and have proved by its success and popularity to be two of the live-wire young business men of Medford.
    Mr. Percy announces that the Antlers Theater will be newly painted and decorated and furnished with new carpets and furnishings, and that in addition a new $10,000 Symphonic orchestral organ will be installed at once.
    The other men interested with Messrs. Percy and Moran in the Globe Theaters Company are C. F. Hill of Seattle, formerly sales manager for the Goldwyn Pictures Corporation, and E. I. Hudson, formerly with the same company.
    The company now controls the following theaters in addition to the Rialto: The Globe and Rialto houses of Albany, and the Antlers of Roseburg. It is expected that two more Southern Oregon houses will soon be under their control.
Medford Mail Tribune, April 11, 1919, page 3

    A big change in the local amusement world has just been announced by which Arthur J. Moran and H. L. Percy, owners and managers of the Rialto Theater, have just secured possession of the Page Theater, having taken a 10 years lease on that house from Dr. Frederick C. Page. Negotiations for this lease had been on for some time. Dr. Page finds that he can no longer devote so much of his time to the running of the Page and has therefore retired so as to give much needed time to his other interests.
    The new managers and lessees of the Page take possession of the theater on July 1st and while not giving out their full program and policy as yet, Mr. Moran stated this noon that they would continue operating the Rialto as a high-class moving picture house and would present only the highest class dramatic attractions and big picture productions at the Page.
    He also announced that the Page would be altered and improved and would be provided at once with a new curtain and new scenic sets for the stage.
    The first legitimate production to be presented by the new management will be the well-known and  popular musical comedy, "Chin Chin," on July 31st. Messrs. Moran and Percy will endeavor to give Medford the best that is going in the theatrical line.
    Along with the lease they took over all the moving picture contracts of the Page, which means that at the Rialto the Medford public will see all the big movie stars.
    The rise of Messrs. Moran and Percy in the local amusement world has been rapid since they first entered that business here two years ago, building the Rialto and conducting that house so as to make it popular with the public. These young men will pursue the same winning policy at the Rialto and at the Page.
Medford Mail Tribune, June 19, 1919, page 8

    Among Friday's passengers to take the airplane flight was Arthur Moran, who went up especially to see how his Rialto Theater sign, painted on the roof of a business building to guide the airplane squadron on its visit here some time ago, looked. He wore a broad smile when he landed. This sign, in white letters 100 feet long and 30 feet wide, has attracted the attention of all the people who have made flights. It looms up like a lighthouse on it from the plane.

"Local Briefs,"
Medford Mail Tribune, July 26, 1919, page 2

August 13, 1919 Medford Mail Tribune
August 13, 1919 Medford Mail Tribune

    The music lovers and theater patrons are grateful to the management of the Rialto theater for having helped to introduce such a fine new concert orchestra to Medford this week, and which plays for the last time at tonight’s performance. The orchestra which won much praise at its first unannounced appearance Sunday night appeared to better advantage if that were possible last night.
    The Amphion orchestra, for that is the name of this newly organized body of eight excellent musicians, including some of Medford’s best, is a permanent concert organization which will give the music lovers of this city many delightful moments in the future, and was organized by Mr. and Mrs. Bolger, artistic professional musicians well known thruout the northwest, who recently located here and have purchased a small ranch east of the city. Mrs. Bolger is the accomplished leader and violinist of the orchestra and her husband plays the flute.
    The other players are F. A. Haight, piano, F. C. McReynolds, ’cello, E. C. Root, clarinet, T. A. Fifer, cornet, Ed White, slide trombone, and E. N. Roberts, drums.
    While the orchestra does not play at the Rialto after tonight, its leader, Mrs. Bolger, will render violin solos every night the remainder of the week.
Medford Mail Tribune, February 24, 1920, page 2

    Dick Antle took a little flyer in the publicity game this week as a surprise to Geo. Hunt, his partner, incidental to the appearance at the Rialto of that splendid military comedy "23½ Hours Leave," the last performance of which will be given tonight. Dick saw to it that the young lady ushers were garbed in regulation uniforms of privates and Miss Blanche Miles in the ticket office in a lieutenant's uniform.
    Not only that but the large audience was much surprised last night right in the midst of the comedy when the caption "Soldiers returning to the cantonment" was thrown on the screen, to see the members of Company D, marched down the aisles and through the entrances on each side disappear onto the stage. A number in the audience were so completely fooled that they afterwards asked if the soldiers in the comedy were the local national guard men.
    In fact Company D, whose members were drilling on the street, merrily marched through the theater onto the stage and passed into the alley in the rear.
    The bill at the Rialto, which closes with tonight's performances, is one of the best laugh-producing programs ever seen in the city, as in addition to the military comedy there is a mirth-providing Fatty Arbuckle comedy.
Medford Mail Tribune, March 11, 1920, page 3

    Mrs. H. L. Percy, whose husband, with Arthur Moran, formerly conducted the Rialto Theater, left this noon on the 4th section of No. 13 for Oakland where she will meet her husband, who is now traveling for a large film producing house.
"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, August 9, 1920, page 2

    Jeunesse Butler, organist for the Rialto Theater, has selected a musical atmosphere setting for the photoplay sensation "Humoresque," which opens a four-day run in this city tomorrow. Miss Butler has selected for the theme Dvorak's "Humoresque," the most popular violin solo of the present day. Fannie Hurst calls it "That laugh on life with a tear behind it."

"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, September 21, 1920, page 2

    Henry Harcke left Tuesday evening for Fresno, Cal., where he has a position as an organist in one of the moving picture houses. Mr. Harcke resigned a similar place at the Page Theater. His place will be taken by Miss Jeunesse Butler, and her place at the Rialto will be taken by Miss Grace Brown.

"Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, January 12, 1921, page 8

    There is an oriental atmosphere about the Rialto Theater this week in keeping with the big spectacular and artistic film being shown there, "One Arabian Night," in which the great picture actress, Pola Negri, is starred.
    The outside lobby of the theater has been transformed to resemble the exterior of an oriental palace, which feature was designed, painted and constructed by Mr. Thomas Swem, the eminent all-around artist, who when not artisting is plain Tom Swem, the Butte Falls district homesteader, and who consumed four packages of Turkish cigarettes, made on New York's East Side, before he got the proper amount of inspiration to carry out the scheme.
    To carry out the oriental idea still farther, the Rialto's cashier, doorman and ushers are garbed in Arabian costume.
Medford Mail Tribune, November 28, 1921, page 6

    In line with the progressive policy of the Rialto and Page theatre managements, Alice Smythe Jay, one of the country's well-known organists and director, has been secured as organist at the Rialto Theatre. Mrs. Jay made her first Medford appearance at the city park last night when she directed the Elks band in playing "Yakima,'' a selection of her own original composition, which made a decided hit with the large audience.
    Mrs. Jay, for three years, was organist at the Auditorium, Brooklyn, New York. She was in Honolulu two years in musical work, at which time she gave special study to music of the Orient, and spent one year as organist under Rippy & Dolan at Aberdeen, Wash. She has made a special study of character music and is the originator of the "Music Score to Moving Pictures,'' covering theme setting, cuing and timing. For this she owns and controls the patent. At the Pan-American Exposition in 1915, Mrs. Jay acted as special musical demonstrator. It is also interesting to know that Mrs. Jay was the originator of the popular wartime song, "Tipperary” and holds American copyrights for that song.
    Medford people are indeed fortunate in having Mrs. Jay as a resident. Her coming to this city is but another step toward making Medford the musical center of this part of the state. Her selections on the organ will be a regular feature of Rialto performances for some time.
Medford Mail Tribune, July 29, 1922, page 3

    The management of the Rialto Theater announced today that they had completed arrangements for the installation of a $15,000 organ which will be rushed by fast freight just as soon as the factory can complete it.
    Mr. Hunt says that they have given the organ problem a lot of study and have settled on a Robert Morton as being the best adapted for their use. Miss Bruce Putnam, formerly of this city, and who has been following organ work for the last two years and has played on every make of theater pipe organ, says that the Robert Morton is the sweetest voiced and causes less trouble mechanically than any she has ever used.
    Mr. Frank Showacre from the Morton factory has been in the city for several days measuring and testing the acoustics of the Rialto so as to get the proper combination of pipes and amount of volume that will be suitable.
    Mr. Hunt states that they are so sold on the Robert Morton that they have also ordered one for their new theater on Central Avenue and also Mr. Dunlap of the Grants Pass Amusement Company has ordered one for the Rivoli Theater in that city. These organs will be of varied sizes and of different combinations, each being built for their respective houses.
Medford Mail Tribune, February 16, 1924, page 2

Northwest Theater Merger
(Special to THE FILM DAILY)

    Medford, Ore. — The George A. Hunt Co., operating the Rialto, Rivoli, and until the recent fire, the Page at Medford, has consolidated with the Vining at Ashland.
The Film Daily, February 18, 1924, page 3

    The big new Robert-Morton orchestral organ for the Rialto Theater in this city has arrived and will be set up and in readiness for Medford theater-goers to enjoy within 10 days.
    This organ, which was sent up from Van Nuys, Calif., was constructed especially for the Rialto and is absolutely complete in musical accompaniments, and up to date in construction.
    The organ accompaniments include bourdon, violoncello, concert flute, baritone, viola, vox humana, orchestral flute, principal, violin, piccolo, tremulant, glockenspiel, xylophone, chimes, snare drum, tambourine, triangle and bird.
    From the solo organ there can be reproduced contra bass, contra viol, vox humana, concert flute, principal, violin, vox humana, orchestral oboe, orchestral flute, octave, violina, vox humana, twelfth, flageolet, glockenspiel, xylophone and chimes.
    The pedal organ is equipped with bass flute, flute, horn, bass violin, vox humana, orchestral diapason, chimes, bass drum, cymbal, triangle, tympani and snare drum. Sounds for the toe pistons include the crash cymbal, tambourine, triangle, bird and tympani.
    Miss Grace Brown, of Medford, who was organist at the Page Theater before it burned, will introduce the new organ for the first week after its installation. Miss Brown will also introduce the new organ at the Rivoli Theatre in Grants Pass, after her week here at the Rialto. Miss Jeunesse Butler, who is now organist at the Rialto, will play the new Robert-Morton organ thereafter.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 8, 1924, page 8

    Tomorrow at 12:30 the new Robert Morton pipe organ, which has just been installed at the Rialto Theater, will be opened by Miss "Betty" Brown, wonder organist, well known in Southern Oregon for her wonderful musical interpretations of the pictures. Miss Brown is a sterling musician, whose talent, untiring efforts and broad musical experience have given Medford theater patrons a great deal of pleasure in the past, as she was organist at the Page for three years.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 17, 1924, page 6

    The initial opening of the new Robert-Morton orchestral organ at the Rialto Theatre with five complete shows and accompanying musical programs was enjoyed by large audiences Sunday.
    The musical accompaniments fulfilled all expectations, but as every picture calls for an entirely new and different selection and type of music, there is yet very much to anticipate. The possibilities of this organ are limitless, and one picture accompaniment alone could not exhaust the varied combinations of tone nor hint at the vast musical literature in store.
    The musician at the console in a picture house is there to please the audience, and not to give an organ recital, consequently everyone is sure to hear and recognize something they know and like during the performance.
    The opening number played by Miss Brown was the melodious "Robin Hood" overture by DeKoven and for encore "Loose Fingers," in intricate and ultramodern conception. The program for the feature picture included "Destiny," waltz by Baynes, an old favorite and excerpts from "Scheherazade," the symphonic suite of Rimsky-Korsakov, the most popular of modern Russian composers. For divertissement, "Where the Lazy Daisies Grow" and "A Smile Will Go a Long, Long Way" were played.
    Many fine compliments were heard as patrons left the theater for both players, "Betty" Brown and Jeunesse Butler, also the wonderful organ and its fine qualities.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 19, 1924, page 3

    S. E. Rothermel has been secured by Geo. Hunt for organist at the Rialto Theater.
    Mr. Rothermel is not altogether a stranger in Medford, having lived here a number of years ago, and has many friends in the community.
    It will also be remembered that Mr. Rothermel played a short engagement last summer at Hunt's Craterian and also the Rialto, while Mr. Ballard and Mr. Wortman were on their vacations.
    Mr. and Mrs. Rothermel will arrive in Medford today and Mr. Rothermel will take up his duties at the Rialto organ this evening.
    Mr. Wortman, who has been playing the organ at the Rialto for the past year and a half, and pleasing the patrons, will leave tonight for North Bend to accept a position at the Liberty Theater at that place.
Medford Mail Tribune, March 13, 1927, page B6

Medford Mail Tribune, September 14, 1927
Medford Mail Tribune, September 14, 1927. "Fast and Furious" played the Rialto August 1-3, 1927.

Work Has Started To Make Local Movie House One of Finest in State--
New Lighting System and Larger Stage.
    Work has started this week on the remodeling and rearranging of the Rialto Theater, by the George A. Hunt company, which will entail an expenditure of $17,000, to be completed about June 1.
    The preliminary work will be concluded this week, and the decorative work will start early next week, under the direction of C. Frank Harris of the B. F. Shearer Studios of Seattle, Wash., who are associated with the National Theater Supply Company.
    The changes call for a new lighting system, an enlarged stage, rearrangement of the wall line, new draperies and remote control curtains and a new marquee. The front of the theater will be altered, placing the ticket office in the center of the entrance.
    The lobby will be fitted with the latest theatrical fixtures: There will be new restrooms, phone booths. All will be set off with the latest theater decorative features.
    The draperies will be of silk and plush, and the color scheme will be American red and Travateen.
    The new Rialto, when presented to the public, will be one of the most complete and beautiful theaters in the state.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 14, 1927, page 1

    In order to complete the extensive decorating and remodeling of the Rialto Theater it will close its doors Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and be in readiness for a grand reopening Thursday.
    Ed Weisenborn of the North American Theater Supply Co. has been in town the past week with his crew of decorators working day and night on the auditorium of the theater. Mr. Weisenborn enjoys the reputation through the Northwest of his being one of the best artists in his line on the Coast.
    Work on the marquee and the new ventilating system will also be completed this week and many pleasant surprises await the Rialto patrons on the reopening.
    The feature picture for the opening will be Clara Bow, the popular little star with "IT," in "Rough House Rosie."
    Other features of the opening program will be announced later.
Medford Mail Tribune, June 5, 1927, page 5

Remodeled Show House To Be One of Finest in State--
Ventilating System Installed--Clara Bow in Opening Picture.
    Tomorrow evening at 6:45 o'clock when the doors of the Rialto Theater swing open to southern Oregon theatergoers, this city will lay claim to one of the most beautiful and modern small show houses in the state. When crowds pack the new, remodeled Rialto tomorrow for a glimpse of the theater and to feast their eyes on the premier flapper of the silver screen, Clara Bow, in her latest rollicking, smashing hit "Roughhouse Rosie," a genuine surprise will await them. George Hunt will present a show house which will eclipse their most optimistic expectations.
    The new, remodeled Rialto is a work of art, an example of the last word in theater decoration. The spacious lobby, the foyer, the roomy auditorium and loges, richly colored, artistically and effectively lighted and set off with rich velvet drapes, are beautiful. No effort has been spared in making the Rialto appealing to southern Oregon people. It is comfortable, restful, pleasing to the eye, a worthy rival of the beautiful Craterian Theater, also operated by the George A. Hunt company.
    An entirely new marquee, replete with flashing electric signs, is replacing the former one, and a new marble-covered booth is being completed for the opening, and a new ventilating system installed. In fact, no detail is being overlooked in making the Rialto a finished, up-to-the-minute theater, and its beauty will reflect credit upon those who are doing the remodeling work.
    The wiring and electrical supplies were installed by the People's Electric Store of this city. Weeks & Orr, one of Medford's foremost furniture houses, will supply the furniture in the lobby of the theater. J. L. Read, general contractor, who lives at 517 Edwards Street in this city, supervised all of the carpentry work in altering the old Rialto. Mr. Read has a wide reputation for fine work in this line. The millwork, doors, grills and material for the ticket office were furnished by the Medford Planing Mill, located at Eleventh and Fir streets, Medford, while the marble work on the attractive ticket booth and in the lobby of the Rialto was handled by the Oregon Granite Company at Fourth and Front streets. Fuller paints were used in refinishing the entire show house, and these were supplied by the Pioneer Paint Company, Fuller representatives in this city.
    The B. F. Shearer division of the National Theater Supply Company of Seattle supervised and handled the painting and decorating of the beautiful new Rialto Theater. This company also supplied and installed the curtains and draperies, and representatives of this organization have been in this city for the last several days overseeing this work. The management of the Rialto was fortunate in securing the services of Ed Weisenhorn, well-known expert in theater decorating, who is associated with B. F. Shearer division of the National Theater Supply Company.
    The Rialto, in fact, will deserve a place alongside the Craterian as one of Oregon's finest amusement houses, and bright, flashing electric signs will beckon theatergoers to stop and pass away pleasant hours in a beautiful place with restful atmosphere, and enjoy many excellent moving picture programs which are being booked for future runs there.
Medford Mail Tribune, June 9, 1927, page 8

    The two large audiences last night at the newly remodeled and redecorated Rialto theater, the individual members of which when entering were prepared to see something fine, were almost bewildered with surprise at what they beheld, so pleasing, artistic and restful were the lobby and auditorium with their wonderful blending of colors on the walls and ceiling, rich hangings and softening chandelier and other lighting effects.
    Yes, indeed, the newly renovated and redecorated Rialto has made a distinct hit with the theater-going public, and is now a worthy companion to her younger, larger and handsome sister amusement place, Hunt's Craterian Theater. Last night and today Mr. and Mrs. Hunt, and Mr. and Mrs. Julius Wolfe of the theater company, Mr. Mendenhall, its advertising manager, Mr. Rothermel, the organist, Fred Ryan, the film operator and the other attaches of the Rialto were being showered with congratulations over the transformation of the theater into one of the very best up-to-the-minute in comfort and appointments, and most beautiful and appealing of the small show houses on the Pacific Coast. The many changes made also convey the impression of solidity and make the lobby, auditorium and stage seem much larger.
    The artistic and pleasing effect extended even to the new uniform costumes of the pretty girl ushers, which included white silk blouse and skirt, jacket of rich red plush and red scarf--so far as the inexperienced eyes of a masculine reporter could catch at a glance.
    There are a few added touches to be given yet to the lobby, including some lighting wrinkles, and it will probably be two weeks yet before the marquee front over Main Street will be completed, with its lettering and electric illumination.
Medford Mail Tribune, June 11, 1927, page 2

    The moving picture theaters were open as usual last night, only that all persons under sixteen years of age are forbidden to attend them, and all other public assemblages, as well as forbidden to be on the streets, by the special emergency infantile paralysis ordinance passed by the city council yesterday noon.
    There seems to have been a misunderstanding by a large part of the public, despite that the facts were plainly published in yesterday afternoon's Mail Tribune, for the theater patronage last night was greatly curtailed to what it had been. At 8 o'clock the audiences at the Craterian and Rialto theaters only numbered about 50 persons at each. Later on this attendance was increased, but was very much less than the usual Thursday night attendance.
    It seems that many people only read a part of the emergency quarantine story, or just glimpsed [sic] it over, for quite a number of passersby during the evening stopped in front of the entrance of each theater and asked the ticket cashier how long the theater would be closed. They expressed joyful surprise when told that the theaters were open as usual and had not been closed at all.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 30, 1927, page 5

The Rialto on May 20 or 21, 1938, when "Heroes of the Alamo" was playing.

    With equipment equally as good as that used in the large show houses throughout the country, the Rialto will make its bow to the Medford and southern Oregon movie public as a theater presenting talking motion pictures exclusively. Following careful preparation, the doors will open tomorrow afternoon for matinee performances, presenting the four Marx brothers in "Cocoanuts," which played to capacity houses at Hunt's Craterian last week.
    The production made such a decided hit that it is by popular demand that the picture will be re-shown at the Rialto. Hundreds were turned away last week, and to accommodate all who have not seen this side-splitting comedy, it will play at the Rialto tomorrow, Friday and Saturday. It will be followed by another extraordinary talkie, Ken Maynard in "The Wagon Master," opening on Sunday. This picture is said by metropolitan critics to rival, and in some cases [out]do, "In Old Arizona," about which movie fans still talk, although the picture was shown here months ago. The production is staged entirely outdoors.
Latest Equipment
    The equipment installed in the Rialto is the latest procurable and has the advantage of the many improvements made on talking equipment during the past 18 months. The theater is equipped for both Vitaphone and Movietone productions, and silent pictures, with the possible exception of certain newsreels, will no longer be shown there. However, Sterling Rothermel, who has delighted Rialto audiences for some time past, will be retained for a time, assuring good pipe organ music as well as the latest talking movies, short and long subjects.
    A recent sound test revealed the theater to have the best acoustics obtainable, and it is the belief of S. G. Mendenhall, manager of the Rialto, that no other theater in the state, and possibly on the coast, can equal the Rialto for sound effects. Due to the smaller space, the talking equipment, he explained, does not have to be operated with loud tones, in some cases distorting the speech and music.
    The equipment of the Rialto is identically the same as that used in Graumann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, New Fox in San Francisco, Portland Theater, Fox Broadway in Portland, Fifth Avenue in Seattle, in addition to many others throughout the country.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 11, 1929, page 7

    Reorganization of the Hunt's Craterian and Rialto theaters, acquired this week by Fox West Coast Theaters, has been completed by Jules Reisman, resident manager, to conform with established Fox policy.
    "There will be no radical changes from the policy set by Mr. Hunt," said manager Reisman today. "The theaters will continue to be an integral part of the civic life of the city and community, just as they are in other cities where they have interests. The magnitude of the Fox organization in no wise lessens their interest in the city. They have prosperity and general welfare of the city as much at heart as any other established business."
    Manager Reisman will leave Sunday night for Portland, where he will book for this city the cream of the current films for presentation at the Craterian and Rialto theaters.
    "Under the Fox management, Medford will be on a parity with San Francisco and Portland in the securing of new films, and we will be able to present them to the Medford movie public upon the same dates, or nearly so, as they are shown in metropolitan areas. Medford people will be given the latest film attractions as speedily as it is possible to do so."
    Manager Reisman said that as fast as new movie equipment was proven practical, the local theaters would be equipped with it. A newly processed full stage width curtain is among the new improvements contemplated. The curtain is now in the experimental stage.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 20, 1929, page 5

    Handsome new uniforms are now being worn by the pretty girl ushers of the Craterian and Rialto theaters--and lest the motive for the chronicling of this fact might be misunderstood, the writer adds that the homely ones, if any, are also wearing the new garb, which was designed by the combined efforts of Sterling Mendenhall, the manager of these Fox theaters and Tom Ginn, the assistant manager, with the assistance it is understood of Mrs. Mendenhall and Tom's best girl.
    The Craterian uniforms consist of red velvet plush jackets cut psittacosis--no, not that, but that parrot disease name has such a hold upon a reporter's mind constantly. Of course, decollete is the word meant. Yes, red plush jackets and white flannel trousers.
    The Rialto girls' uniform consists of the same color jackets, also cut ptsitta--no, low necked, and black serge trousers.
    Not only that, but the manly young forms of the doormen of the two theaters are also enfolded in striking new uniforms. Lester Cash at the Rialto wears a maroon uniform with black trimmings, and that of Allen Petty at the Craterian of a blue color with gold trimmings. The doormen's uniforms were designed by Mendy and Tom at Merriman's blacksmith shop, the day of the recent three-below-zero freeze.
Medford Mail Tribune, February 1, 1930, page 2

    Leonard Christean and Lowell Larter, local young boys, wanted to see a free show at the Rialto Theater last night and attempted to make their way into the auditorium. Their efforts resulted in knocking plaster from the ceiling of the show house and causing some disturbance for the audience. The boys appeared at the police station this morning and were to appear there again this afternoon. It is probable no legal steps will be taken against them, but they must repair the damage they caused.
    The pair crawled through a trap door on top of the theater, leading to a space between the ceiling and room. Shortly after they crawled through, one of the boys hit the ceiling too hard and his legs emerged in the showhouse, and he would have fallen to the floor except for an electric conduit.
    While a few women screamed and most of the audience arose from the seats, there was no panic. A few left the theater when they heard the noise above them.
    The city building inspector, F. H. Rogers, inspected the theater building this forenoon and declared it to be in first-class shape and that it was no fault of the building that the plaster fell.
Medford Mail Tribune, July 31, 1930, page 3  Leonard was 14 years of age and Lowell 15.

    Nearly 1000 children under 12 years took advantage of the free matinee at the Fox Rialto Theater today, arranged by the Medford Mail Tribune in cooperation with the local management of Fox West Coast Theaters.
    The matinee opened at 12:30 and a line of children, two abreast, waiting to see the show, extended over a block a half hour before.
    The theater filled up rapidly and over 200 children could not be accommodated. A second show was given for their benefit upon the completion of the first.
    The first chapter of the serial, "The Spell of the Circus," was a feature of the program, which included a full-length movie, "The Avenger."
    The children came from all parts of the valley and presented coupons they had clipped out of the Mail Tribune for admittance.
Medford Mail Tribune, March 21, 1931, page 2

    A crew of workmen are busy this week installing the latest type spring-upholstered auditorium and loge seats in the Fox Rialto theatre. Carpeting of new and original pattern arrived from Seattle today and will soon replace the present carpets in the Fox Rialto, novel lighting effects will soon be installed and the front completely decorated, according to Archie Holt, Fox Medford manager.
The seats which are being taken from the Rialto will be rebuilt and upholstered for the auditorium of Medford's new senior high school.
    In the near future the Fox Rialto will discontinue its present policy of weekend presentations and resume its former schedule of shows every day of the week. Manager Holt has also announced a new policy of featuring the pick of second-run picture after October 1 at the Rialto.
    George A. Jacobson and William B. Smith of Portland are in Medford this week supervising the installation of the new Rialto seats.
Excerpt, Medford Mail Tribune, August 19, 1931, page 8

    George Hunt has bookings for the Craterian and Rialto theatres that are "the pick of the leading producers" and all are first-run pictures.
    "Owing to the fact that it is impossible to present the best pictures at the former prices without loss," said Mr. Hunt, "it becomes necessary to increase the prices to 15 cents for matinees and 25 cents evenings at the Rialto and 25 cents for matinees and 35 cents evenings at the Craterian."
    These prices are in keeping with the average in other cities, and the people will support Mr. Hunt in this small increase, appreciating the fact that the theatres are again home owned and the service formerly rendered the public by Mr. Hunt.
The Tattler, Medford, June 16, 1933, page 2

Medford Mail Tribune, July 20, 1939

Newest Streamline Design Presents a Completely Changed Appearance--
Doors Open Saturday at 1

    On Saturday afternoon the remodeled Rialto Theater will make its bow to southern Oregon showgoers.
    Since June 13th the theater has been a hive of activity, with busy workmen first tearing down the old furnishings and equipment and then rebuilding, redecorating, refurnishing. And from this hive of activity an all-new Rialto Theater has been created--a theater created not for luxury but for comfort of its patrons.
    From front to back, changes have been made with comfort and convenience always uppermost in mind. Of course the decorative effect has also had its part in the scheme of things, and from the striking new marquee and tiled front to the new furnishings and modern trend of decoration the Rialto Theater is thoroughly up-to-date. However, it was not intended to make the Rialto so luxurious as to lose the warm personality that has made it one of Medford's most popular theaters for more than 20 years. Rather, it was hoped to enhance that effect that much attention was given to the remodeling.
    Soft carpets underfoot will greet showgoers as they first enter the theater foyer. To the left, the second door will admit the ladies to a pleasant new powder room, with comfortable lounge chairs and an all-tiled restroom.
    At the far end of the foyer, where the ladies' room formerly was located, the men will find a brand-new restroom with all modern conveniences. The former men's room has been turned into a telephone booth and supply room.
    In the auditorium, an all-new concrete floor has replaced the former wood floor, with new chairs--roomy, cushioned seat and back, mohair-covered chairs, to allow the patron to sit back in comfort with no crowding or squeezing: Rows have been made wider to allow more leg room. In the balconies--now turned into loge sections with smoking permitted--each seat will allow full, unimpaired view of the screen.
    An entirely new air conditioning and, for winter, heating unit has been installed. No more will the theater be stuffy in the summer and drafty in winter. Two openings on the pilasters above the stage will admit clean, cool, fresh air to condition the entire theater during the warm summer months and, with cooler weather, warm air.
    The B. F. Shearer Company, one of the Coast's foremost theater decorating and equipment concerns, who remodeled the Craterian two and a half years ago, were in charge of the remodeling program at the Rialto Theater, with Elmer N. Childers as general contractor.
    Local concerns were given every consideration in the rebuilding.
Medford Mail Tribune, July 20, 1939, page B1

    The Rialto Theater, with one of the oldest historical backgrounds in Southern Oregon entertainment, was first opened to the public in 1917. The street then was about the same as it is today, other than the building from the theater to Bigelow's corner was of wood construction.
    The theater was built by Arthur Moran and Harold Percy and opened with the first showing on September 17, 1917, over 22 years ago. [The date was actually August 30.] The show house was then considered one of the finest theaters on the Pacific coast, and was operated with a deluxe policy. The theater was the same size as it is today.
    George Hunt and Richard Antle purchased the theater in 1919, and Julius Wolf bought out Antle's interest in 1923, about the same time Hunt opened the Craterian Theater.
    George Hunt and Wolf redecorated and put up the marquee that only this week was discarded for the new one that adorns the theater. This redecoration took place early in 1925. At this time the theater was introduced to its first curtains, giving it the appearance of a "big city" theater. New projectors were also installed in the booth.
    Wolf's interest was bought out by Hunt in 1928. And one year later sound was put in. The first talking machines were installed by Western Electric and were of the Vitaphone record type. The first talking picture played in the Rialto was a seven-reeler starring the Marx Brothers.
    Just after sound came in Mr. Hunt sold out to the Fox west coast theater circuit. No major changes from that time on had been done in the way of decorating until the present day, with the exception of a few seats which were brought to the Rialto by Fox from one of their other theaters in their circuit.
    In May of 1938 the theater again came under the direction of George A. Hunt.
    The above facts were presented by Fred Ryan, the oldest member of the Rialto Theater personnel. He started to work for Moran and Percy in 1919, about six months before Hunt took it over. The smile that came over Ryan's face as he sat and told the story and the adoration he bestowed upon the new Rialto, just completed and ready to open Saturday, was the adoring expression of a benevolent father as he watched his favorite child grow into lusty manhood.
Medford Mail Tribune, July 20, 1939, page B1

Boxoffice magazine, October 3, 1942, page 49

Rialto Theater To Close Saturday, Jan. 3
    The Rialto Theater, which was opened to the public in September 17, will close its doors permanently after the last show on Saturday, January 3, it was announced by Robert Corbin, manager of the Oregon California theaters.
    The theater has been operated by several different firms, and was purchased by the Lippert theaters, for the Oregon California chain, in 1947.
    Corbin said the auditorium will be used by Weeks and Orr furniture to expand its facilities. He explained that the lobby is located in the Palm building and the auditorium in the Weeks and Orr building.
    This type of theater, which has been devoted largely to western-type motion pictures in recent years, has been disappearing from coast to coast, as Hollywood is not furnishing enough of the type of pictures shown there. In addition, he said, drive-in theaters are largely replacing them. Lippert is building a new drive-in north of town, which will open in the spring.
    The regular Saturday "kids' show" matinees will be shown in the future at the Craterian Theater, starting at 11 a.m., Corbin reported.
Central Point American, January 1, 1953, page 1  This story originally ran on page one of the December 30, 1952 issue of the Medford Mail Tribune.

    Jerry [Hermanson Mansfield] recalls when the Rialto Theater was operating, on West Main Street, where Weeks and Orr Furniture is now. She says the Rialto had a popcorn sales window that opened onto the street, and the aroma from the popcorn machine brought a lot of customers. "We sold popcorn for a nickel a bag."
"Jerry's 40-Plus Years in Local Theaters," Medford Mail Tribune, November 6, 1981, page 16

Last revised January 22, 2024