The Historic Rialto Theatre, Tampa Florida

Rialto Theatre - Then & Now

Now home to 8-Count Studios

The Rialto Theatre, located in the historic district of North Franklin Street and Tampa Heights, was constructed of brick in 1925 and opened its doors in 1926, designed by Francis J. Kennard and son. Architect F.J. Kennard is also known for designing the Clearwater Public Library, The Biltmore Hotel and the Floridan Palace Hotel with a style that was very classy and detail oriented, and often categorized under the neoclassical style.


Originally the 10,500-square-foot live-stage theater contained 375 seats according to “A Guide to Historic Tampa Florida”. Along with the Rialto Theatre, North Franklin Street was also home to businesses such as Fielder & Mitchell Ship Chandlers, JB Johnson Autos, and Lee Tire Co. of Florida Inc. Franklin Street is known as a street full of firsts; Tampa’s first streetcar started in Franklin Street, and it was also the first street in the city to be paved and have sidewalks.


During the early years of The Rialto Theatre, they offered a variety of plays, musical comedies, and dance performances to the public. The Rialto had three daily performances; a 50-cent matinee, early evening 99-cent admission and a 9:15 show for 77 cents. Some of the programs the theater offered were the The Rialto Players, Minutes from Broadway, The Prince of Pilsen, It Pays to Advertise, and the Rialto program for Honey Gal.


It served the performing arts until the 1940s, later becoming a movie theater named “The Cinema”, showcasing movies such as “Body Beautiful” which was considered “risqué” for the times. The theater was afterwards used as an auto repair shop, which closed in 2005, although the building design and some theater details such as the proscenium archway were preserved. More information on the transformation of North Franklin Street and architecture by F.J. Kennard can be found in the links below.

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