Saturday, January 7, 2012

Surviving the Rialto Jinx

Movie theaters named Rialto have been shuttered over the years all across New Jersey. Everywhere from Newark and Jersey City to Asbury Park and Hoboken.

But a Garden State Rialto that has managed to survive is the one in Westfield, on the cusp of its 90th anniversary later this year. Ahead of that September 6th celebration, local writer-director Ken Castellano is this month debuting his second feature Return to Start, with screenings this past Thursday and again next Thursday, January 12th.

The 38-year-old Castellano grew up watching movies at this Rialto, so getting to unveil his romantic drama there is extra sweet. He shared the following picture on Twitter before last week's showing, and it really is worth a thousand indie film words:

The Westfield Rialto came close to being no more, twice. In 1931, faulty wiring in an organ sparked a fire that caused a whopping $100,000 in Depression era dollars damage. Then, in 1996, with the locale earmarked for retail redevelopment, some 250 locals and a Main Street coalition stepped in. As a result, the theater was purchased from United Artists by Jesse Savegh, renovated, and refurbished yet again in 2009. A year later, ownership was transferred to Digiplex Destinations.

Back on September 6th, 1922, the admission price was just 30 cents. Five years later, the silent version of Ben-Hur marked the first time a major Hollywood feature was shown. Now, thanks to Castellano, the Rialto rolls have made room for a hometown boy's $10,000 sophomore effort.

[Return to Start]

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