Constructed in 1923-1924 and designed by Montreal architect Joseph-Raoul Gariépy, who specialized in theatre and hospital projects, the Rialto was inspired by the Neo-baroque-style of the Paris Opera House. The Rialto Theatre is one of the most iconic buildings in Montreal, and is a former movie palace which today is designated as a ‘National Historic Site’ of Canada.
The Louis XVI style interior was designed by Emmanuel Briffa, designer of over sixty Canadian movie houses. Despite its glorious design, the Rialto ceased operation as a cinema in 1990, and has since undergone many transformations. Over the years all the theatre seats were removed, and many failed conversion attempts were made, once even to convert it into a steakhouse. After nearly thirty years of ownership the building was sold in March 2010 to Le Groupe Merveilles Inc. They indicated an intention to protect and restore its unique architecture, and by commencing restoration immediately after the purchase, their actions proved their objective to act as custodians of the historic Rialto, a giant leap toward the right direction. Today the main floor supports 708 people in standing mode, 450 people in theatre row seating, 350 in cabaret style seating. The newly opened balcony holds an additional 450 seated people.
Beyond the bricks and mortar they also moved ahead with the quest to embolden and enliven the programming offered. For far too long the theatre has laid dormant and unused. The new owners wanted to re-vitalize it as a center for the performing arts; open and inclusive, multilingual and multicultural, grounded in the present, yet not afraid to wink at the past. The mission has been to give a platform to the emerging artists of the Montreal area, with a specific focus on its home turf, the ‘Mile End’ neighborhood. Since the 1980’s the Mile End has been home to artists, musicians, writers, and filmmakers such as Arcade Fire, Adam Gollner, Bran Van 3000, Grimes, Sean Michaels and Plants and Animals. Many art galleries, designers' workshops, boutiques and cafés are found here, it is also where Mordecai Richler has set many of his books. The area has even been immortalized with 2 signature beers, as a well-known local brewpub Dieu du Ciel (God of Heaven) released 2 versions; one called Mild End, an English-style mild ale, the other’ Saison St-Louis’, named after the neighbourhood's first name, Saint-Louis-du-Mile-End, a Belgian-style brew.
The technical upgrades included a brand new Adamson SpekTrix loudspeaker system powered with Lab.gruppen PLM with Dolby Lake processing. In order to preserve the architectural beauty and clean sightlines, the ground stacked PA system is made up of 4 Spektrix 5 degree boxes mounted atop a double 18” cardioid Sub left and right of the stage with a single T21 Center sub covering the floor level. The balconies feature a second SpekTrix system, this one is a flown SpekTrix sub with 3 SpekTrix 5 degree boxes underhang both at Left and Right of balcony. A Midas Heritage 3000 console for FOH, and a M7- cl 48-channel console for Monitors were also added with full Shure and Sennheiser microphone lines. On stage 10 Adamson M series M12 and M15 wedges powered by Powersoft offer flexible monitoring for the various styles of performers and events, such as live concerts, film, dance and theatrical performances taking the Rialto stage. The system was designed by the Co-Technical Directors, Drew Malamud and, Laurent Magne, and supported by Adamson’s exclusive Canadian distributors Theatrixx based in Montreal.