South Pasadena, CA
Walkable. Wonderful.

Encore! Rialto

A Revitalization Symposium on The Rialto Theatre

Event has concluded. This is a recap.

The Rialto Theatre is currently closed, in need of repair. Some say it is seeking a vision for how to reopen - and capture its rightful place as the cornerstone of South Pasadena and a beacon in the San Gabriel Valley.

Other communities with historic theatres threatened by changing times have been down this path, and successfully re-opened. Some have repurposed the building, others have reinvigorated the original venue and adapted it to modern entertainment standards. Some have done so courtesy of private investors, others through community-based nonprofit efforts, or a hybrid plan with both of those approaches.

How did they do it? What worked? What didn't work? Attendees heard expert speakers from The Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles, The Alex in Glendale and the Pomona Fox. A recap is available on

Attendees also enjoyed the premiere of a short documentary on The Rialto, "Fading Treasure", by student filmmaker Miranda Gontz. On a one-on-one basis in a mixer both before and afterward, Rialto enthusiasts had an opportunity to join in the discussion with panelists and each other on of what to do about the now closed, but much loved Rialto Theatre in South Pasadena. Live jazz by the Tim Kobza Trio set the tone and teased guests with the sounds that could resonate inside the Rialto if it ever came back as a live performance venue.

Encore! Rialto was free and open to the public. Thanks to our sponsors: AT&T, BurkeTriolo Studio the South Pasadena Preservation Foundation and the South Pasadena Public Library.

If you want to help with the effort, there are some ways you can get involved listed on The Rialto is privavtely owned and operated. But there is a growing community-based effort to get it rehabilitated and back in service as an entertainment venue.



PHOTO: Rialto Theatre, South Pasadena circa 1942 with a banner over Fair Oaks Ave. promoting a Ronald Reagan movie "Juke Girl". Courtesy of The Huntington Library.


Theatre, South Pasadena circa 1942 with a Ronald Reagan movie "Juke Girl" Courtesy of The Huntington Library.

Panel Discussion "How We Reopened; How We Stay Open"

The Orpheum Theatre, The Alex Theatre, and the Fox Pomona are each revitalized, historic operating entertainment venues. One is pravately owned and operated as a for-profit enterprise. One was saved and operated through Community Redevelopment Agency funding and a grass roots effort. And one took both of those approaches. Which one might be a model for The Rialto?

Key players from each of the theatres compared notes and discussed two key issues: how their theatre was reopened, and how they keep the lights on and the seats filled each year.

Panelist Bios

Ed Kelsey

In addition to managing the Orpheum Theatre, Ed Kelsey has been the construction manager for Anjac Fashion Buildings, the owner/operator of the Orpheum. He joined Anjac in 1999 as construction manager for the renovation of the Wurlitzer Building and then served as project manager for a $3.5 million renovation of the Orpheum Theatre in 2001.

Formerly, Ed was a member of the technical staff for the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts and operates his own consulting business, Historic Theatre Services. A member of the Los Angeles Conservancy, Ed is currently a board member of the Theatre Historical Society of America and is also chairing the city of LA's 'Bringing Back Broadway' Theatre Committee. He has contributed articles on historic theatres to national publications and conducts monthly presentations on local theater history for the LA Historic Theatre Foundation.

Barry McComb - Glendale Arts/The Alex Theatre

Barry McComb was hired as the Executive Director of the Alex Theatre in September of 2001 and has more than 30 years of experience in developing business strategies, booking talent, and operating live entertainment venues. Prior to coming to the Alex Theatre, Mr. McComb served as the Director of Corporate Entertainment for Caesars World Entertainment, Director of Special Events and Entertainment at Caesars in Lake Tahoe, and Director of Marketing at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum. His professional affiliations include the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, the Western Arts Alliance, and California Presenters. Mr. McComb has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon. On July 1, 2008, the Alex Regional Theatre (ART) Board was restructured as Glendale Arts, a private nonprofit organization that is dedicated to strengthening Glendale’s arts community with a primary purpose of overseeing the preservation and operation of the Alex Theatre. Mr. McComb now serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Glendale Arts and oversees a staff of 60 employees and 125 volunteers, and an annual operating budget of $2.2 million.

John Clifford - Friends of the Pomona Fox

John Clifford has a long history in working on historic preservation issues, particularly with regards to old movie theaters. In working with Robert W. Nudelman since the late 1970s, he had assisted him with the generation of reports for such projects as the restoration of the Wiltern Theater, Hollywood Theater (now Guinness World of Records Museum), Egyptian Theater (now the American Cinematheque—of which John is a founding member), Graumann’s Chinese, Cinerama Dome, and Disney’s El Capitan in Hollywood. He and Nudelman also founded and ran The Hollywood Museum from 1984-1987.

Living with his wife, Deborah, in Pomona, John has been a board member of Pomona Heritage and is currently the president of Friends of the Pomona Fox, an organization for which he is a founding board member since 2002. He also served as a commissioner on the city’s Charter Review Commission and is currently the historic consultant on the restoration of the 1915 Meyer & Holler Mayfair Hotel across the street from the Pomona Fox Theater. In addition, John was a board member of Hollywood Heritage for 6 years during the early 2000s and served four years as Secretary and one year as Vice President, and was involved in a wide range of historic preservation projects. He continues to serve both Hollywood Heritage and Pomona Heritage as webmaster and newsletter editor.

The Pomona Fox is prvately owned and operated, and works hand-in-hand with the Friends of the Friends of the Pomona Fox to preserve, restore and operate the theatre.

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The South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce is a member of the League of Historic American Theatres

For more information on the Rialto Theatre, visit

Find Friends of the Rialto on Facebook

Note on the "Encore! Rialto" image:

Peter Adams
Under the Balcony Inside the Rialto, 2008
Oil on panel   12" x 9"