A Commentary on the Rialto Theatre by Escott Norton

As many of you know, Mosaic Church signed a lease to occupy the Rialto Theatre.

I have been in communication with the leadership of Mosaic Church since last December, and while it is not my first choice I am hoping this is a positive thing for the Rialto Theatre and the community.

Mosaic Church seems to be doing things right. They have engaged a well-respected architectural team to do the “Historic Structures Report” (HSR), a thorough document that lists all of the “character-defining features” of the building, as well as a history. This will be used to figure out what can be done to restore or renovate the theatre for the tenant’s use.

Friends of the Rialto has been consulted and will continue to help with the HSR to make sure it is as complete as possible. 

What activity has gone on at the Rialto thus far?

Mosaic has had a few work days and it has cleared a lot of the accumulated “debris” out of the backstage and lobby areas. I have spoken to Mosaic leadership to make sure nothing of any historical value is removed.

What is Friends of the Rialto doing?

Friends of the Rialto has presented the Mosaic Church team and the Rialto’s owners with a proposal to consult with them during the restoration phase, and to help program the theatre on days and nights when the church is not using it. Our goal is to ensure the Rialto is protected and restored as accurately as possible, and eventually used for public events as much as possible.

So what about the future?

In a recent meeting with Mosaic leadership, we discussed the future and they expressed interest in eventually hosting public entertainment events that could include movies, live theatre, concerts, etc. There are many in the church community who are connected to the entertainment business, and there is no shortage of ideas for events. The first step is to get the building operational and figure out the church’s needs, then there will be an opportunity to look at doing other events. 

Next Steps

Mosaic is working with the city to get the approvals needed to run regular events. It is also going to use the finished HSR to determine what renovations and restorations are feasible. Friends of the Rialto will follow this process and consult as much as possible. While all of the planning will take time, Mosaic is holding “Interest Nights” on a regular basis. The public is invited to come and meet church members and see the Rialto. The next “Interest Night” is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 3, at 5 p.m. If you are curious, drop by.

While our vision of managing the Rialto as a multi-use performing arts and cinema venue will need to wait, our primary mission as advocates for the theatre is more important than ever. We plan to keep a vigilant eye on all things happening at the Rialto and help as much as possible. 

Escott O. Norton

Founder and

President, Friends of the Rialto