Rialto Theatre - Grayling MI

Address: 302 E Michigan Ave
City: Grayling
State: MI
Zip: 49738
County: Crawford
Open: 1930
Owner History:
Theater Type: Small Town Movie Palace
Number of visits to this page: 18162

Please note that location entries may feature older photos or post card views that may not represent the current appearance, features, addresses, phone numbers, or contact names of the attraction. This site is intended to be a historical as well as current record of various attractions but it is not always possible to have up-to-date information due to the vast number of locations featured here. We ask you consult the propietor for current information.

General Information:

Source: Arnold T Stancil 2007

My name is Arnold Stancil and I currently manage the Rialto Theatre which was founded in 1915 by my grandfather George N. Olson. The original structure was completely destroyed by fire in 1930 and the photos on this site are of the new (1930) building. The large marquee was added to the front of the building in 1940. The theatre seats 380 and also has a balcony. While I manage the old theatre at present it is owned by the founder's great-grandson Geoffrey Bichler of Winter Park, FL. Having worked here (off and on) for nearly 53 years it saddens me know that my nephew (Mr. Bichler) is entertaining offers to purchase at this time. I will stay as long as I can to honor my grandfather's memory.

Info Updates:
1/20/2014 - John McDowell
I recently received a link to kickstarter. com about the Rialto The following is an portion of their article. Hope they make it. They want to convert to digital and do a full restoration. We have a simple choice: convert to digital projection or close. Let's use this opportunity to make the Rialto the best it can be! A Digital Dilemma Over the next few months, Hollywood studios will stop producing movies on actual film. In fact, Paramount Pictures informed theaters at the end of 2013 that Anchorman 2 would be the last movie it distributes on film. So the end of film is now here. This means that new movies will be distributed in digital format only. Theaters will receive each movie in the form of a hard drive to be plugged into a computerized projector. Film is being phased out because the digital format is cheaper for the studios to produce and distribute. But there are also other benefits: a much sharper, clearer, and brighter picture on the screen, and the required sound system upgrades will be worlds better than what the Rialto now has. The cost of this new equipment is beyond what an independent theater in a small town can afford. That's why the Rialto is asking you to make this crucial investment with us. The Rialto Theater The Rialto Theater has been in operation continuously since May 29, 1915. During that time it has been owned and operated by the same family. It is probably the oldest family-run movie theater in America. The theater's original building was destroyed by fire in the spring of 1930, and the current structure was built a few months later. But rather than just throw up a bare-bones theater to get back in business as soon as possible, the Rialto's founder, George Olson, hired the architecture firm of C. Howard Crane, which also designed the famous Fox Theater in Detroit. Grayling's new theater was adorned with many historically significant Art Deco features — decorative molding along the high cove ceiling, murals on the box office walls, and beautiful stencils on the columns lining the auditorium. With plush carpeting and upholstery and the latest projection and sound equipment, the Rialto was designed to be the best there was — and as many people attested at the time, it was. These special origins indicate the vision behind the Rialto Theater from the beginning: to create something truly grand — some might even say too grand — in a small town. Restoring the Rialto Theater Restoring the Rialto Theater means once again making it the best there is. That's why this project is not only about buying a digital projector, but also replacing our seats, redesigning our concession and lobby areas, and refurbishing the historic paintwork and look of the theater. The result will be a state-of-the-art venue — by today's standards — that also preserves the most important piece of historic architecture in our area. In addition to first-run movies, a restored Rialto will be able to host a range of cultural and entertainment events. This will draw additional visitors to downtown and help nourish other businesses. Restoring the Rialto Theater also means restoring the vision of the theater's founder: to give all the people in our area, rich or poor, the best there is. If this was possible in 1930, in the depths of the Great Depression, then it is possible today. Invest in Grayling's Future We are setting the bar high. We know that if we do not convert to digital projection, the theater will close. But we also know that if we only convert to digital projection and do nothing else, we will miss an opportunity to restore a monument to Grayling's past — right on the verge of our 100th anniversary in 2015. We would also miss the opportunity to develop the Rialto into a powerful engine for downtown Grayling's ongoing economic renaissance. With the money you invest here on kickstarter. com, supplemented by our own funds, you will be a crucial part of this renaissance. This is a unique moment for Grayling. We are on the verge of losing our beautiful old theater. But we are also on the verge of creating something incredible that will last another 100 years. We have something that cannot be replaced. But it can be restored. Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter This is an all-or-nothing campaign. If we do not reach our investment goal, we receive nothing, and none of our backers will be charged. Then the theater will close, probably in late spring or early summer, depending on when the remaining movie studios phase out film. If we are successful, our main challenge will be managing the restoration project while also running our business. We have already begun working with the leading companies in this industry who have an established track record restoring and building some of the most prominent venues in this country, and we are confident that with our many years of experience running the theater we will be able to bring our project to fruition in time for our 100th anniversary in May 2015.
2/15/2010 - JLK
I loved the Rialto! I grew up in Grayling and have many fond memories of that theater. Little ticket booth, tiny concession, very skinny ladies restroom. My friends and I would always sit in the front rows. Mr. (George) Stancil would walk down the side aisle and scold us (in a nice way) for putting our feet on the backs of the chairs in front of us. They only showed movies on Th - Sat. 7p and 9p. One Sunday showing at 7:30p. (I think ?) I remember standing in many lines which would go down the street and around the corner in front of the post office. The seats were old red velvet and some had tears covered with duct tape here and there. The floor was sometimes sticky with soda. There was a small balcony although I don't remember ever sitting up there. There was a small stage below the screen, if I remember correctly. The only theater in Grayling. One of the few social gathering places for us teens. I remember going with my mom too. Brings back great memories.
8/24/2005 - Pat Weaver
The Rialto was the ORIGINAL Olsen Bros. theatre, and may still be operated by the Stancil family. Georganne Stancil was the daughter of George Olsen (she operated it into the late 70s.) George, along with brother Jum operated four other indoor (Pines, Ideal, MidState and Gaylord) theatres and the 55HI, Sundown and Sky-Hi drive in theatres. The Rialto is another magnificent small-town house. Bravo to whoever has it for keeping it that way.
7/3/2003 - WaterWinterWonderland
This awesome downtown theatre is still going strong. Definitely one of the best in the state.
Rialto Theatre - From Website
From Website
Rialto Theatre - From Website
From Website
Rialto Theatre - Recent Shot
Recent Shot
Rialto Theatre - Marquee
Rialto Theatre - Marquee From Side
Marquee From Side
Rialto Theatre - Marquee Close-Up
Marquee Close-Up
Rialto Theatre - Recent Lobby Shot
Recent Lobby Shot
Rialto Theatre - Old Shot
Old Shot
Rialto Theatre - 1962
Rialto Theatre - March 6 1930 Ad
March 6 1930 Ad
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