Constructed in 1908, this historic brick edifice was one of the first commerce buildings in downtown Bozeman. In its first incarnation, this iconic building served rather mundanely as a US Post Office with small shops. Acclaimed architect Fred Willson later assisted with its repurpose and redesign, transforming the building into a beautiful movie theater c.1934. It later became a significant example of Art Deco cinema design, established during the heyday of Depression-era theaters, which were built all over the United States through the 1930s and early 40s. For the rest of the 20th century, the theater served as a popular downtown arts and entertainment venue, defining its niche as a prominent showcase for Montana
arts, culture, and (independent) film. The Rialto was last operated by
Carmike Cinemas, but officially closed its doors in 2005. It was later
to a development group who intended to turn the theater into
condominiums, but the economic downturn prevented the project from
becoming reality. After the condominium repurpose failed, the
theater sat empty and neglected for more than five years. During this
time, it was often the only abandoned building in Bozeman's beautiful
For the last decade, newspapers and journals reported that long-time residents and newcomers expressed a preference that the theater remain a theater. Bozemanites were understandably saddened to learn the Rialto had been gutted in the process of demolition planning associated with the failed condo project. For many, the resulting building damage disturbed their happy memories of a theater they feared was gone
for good. Indeed, many have fond memories of the Rialto as a special place to gather and enjoy film
as a family, with friends, and/or on a date. Some even recall having their
first kiss while in the audience at the Rialto.
2010, the theater was purchased with a new vision to recreate a community theater that would focus on showcasing regional singer songwriters as well as national artists.
During the last 18 months, SRO MONTANA
leased the theater and engaged the Bozeman business community to help sponsor a restoration project. Bozeman businesses have been overwhelmingly positive showing a clear desire to restore this intimate theatrical venue to its original purpose as place for Bozeman arts and entertainment. As a
community gathering place and as a regional mecca to showcase independent film, musical entertainment, artist exhibitions, and book signings, Bozeman businesses are thoroughly behind the ongoing restoration.
its historic integrity reinvigorated, Gallatin Valley residents now have their very own local theater to enjoy a wide array of arts and musical entertainment.