Supporters of the Rialto Square Theatre and city officials celebrated the theatre’s 90th anniversary May 24, reflecting on its past and toasting to its future.
Highlights from the daylong event included behind-the-scenes tours, silent films, a ceremonial cake cutting and more.
Annette Barker, director of marketing at the Rialto, said the event was important in showing the community how the theatre has evolved.
“You get to see the workings of how a 1926 vaudeville theatre used to work, and the new updates and technology we included now to make it more of a performing arts venue,” she said.
The Rialto has garnered a number of accomplishments over the years, according to Barker.
“The performances that we’ve brought in have changed over the years,” she said. “We do more rentals; we do weddings and receptions, graduations, proms, dance recitals. We’re trying to make it as much of a working theatre as much as possible.”
Public officials have recently been considering the future of the historic theater, as financial woes over the years have raised questions over the Rialto’s viability.
Mayor Bob O’DeKirk addressed those concerns during the celebration saying the city council’s commitment to the theater is key in shaping the future of Joliet.
The Mayor added that the city needs the Rialto to stay in the picture to allow Joliet to move forward with its downtown development plans.
“A functional Rialto Theatre is a vital part of those plans,” he said.
Karen Wiekert, of Plainfield, was one of many people in attendance for the event. She said being at the Rialto brings back great childhood memories.
“It’s an amazing place,” she said. “I remember coming here as a child watching movies, and then coming back to it for its birthday like this, it’s just phenomenal how beautiful it still is.”
Wiekert said she enjoyed both of the silent movies that were displayed.
“It was wonderful,” she said. “I read the organ music that accompanies it to make it a full story.”
She added that she was excited to experience the rest of the festivities that were lined up.
“I’m looking forward to the behind-the-scenes tour because I’ve never seen [that part of the theatre],” she said.
Ed Czerkies, of Joliet, was enjoying his time spent mingling among those in attendance for the celebration. He said the theatre plays a great role in bringing people into the city.
The hope is that more people visit the theatre to experience all that it offers, Czerkies added.
Candice Quinerly, of Joliet, was in attendance for the celebration at the Rialto. Although she works down the street from the theatre, she doesn’t get to visit as often as she might like.
“I’ve never seen the chandelier down like this—the duchess,” she said. “It’s really exciting and there’s just a lot people that are here to enjoy it, so that’s really cool.”
Quinerly said the American Legion Band puts one of her favorite shows at the theatre.
“It always reminds me of my hometown,” she said. “They’re a great band and they just put on a really great Christmas show every year. It’s for a really great cause as well.”
The daylong celebration was estimated to have brought in 500-800 people, according to Barker. She hopes the Rialto will continue to attract area residents by providing a variety of events and performances.
“Will County is a growing county,” she said. “We always try to bring in shows that appeal to a variety of taste. We have shows for the young kids; we have country; we have rock; we have Broadway. We want to continue bringing in new people, so they realize they don’t have to go to Chicago to see the same performances they can see in their community.”