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Revive the Rialto campaign underway | Arts & Culture

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Revive the Rialto campaign underway
Revive the Rialto campaign underway

SEARCY, Ark. (Revive the Rialto) - The Rialto Theater in historic downtown Searcy is soon to receive needed repairs to the front of the iconic movie theater.

The Revive the Rialto committee-a group comprised of Main Street Searcy, Searcy Regional Chamber of Commerce and Searcy Regional Economic Development Corporation volunteers recently began fundraising efforts as part of a community-wide beautification project. The committee is asking for donations in anticipation of completing phase one of the project by the end of this year. Once phase one has been completed, including exterior work on the front of the building and the rehabilitation of the neon lights and v-shaped marquee, the committee will address future needs of the rehabilitation project.

The Rialto Theater is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has stood in downtown Searcy since it was constructed around 1923. It is owned by the City of Searcy and Victor Weber has been operating the facility as a family-friendly movie theater since 1994.

The original brick building facade was updated to its current art deco style with the grand neon marquee in the 1940s and the grand re-opening of the new Rialto Theater was in 1949. As quoted by an article that appeared in The Daily Citizen on March 14, 1949, "The newly remodeled theatre is a marvel of beauty, comfort, convenience and safety, an amusement house which Searcy may be well proud." In the 1949 newspaper article, Rialto manager K.K. King stated the new Rialto was one of the finest movie houses in the state of Arkansas.

In addition to seeking financial contributions to make this project possible, there is also a need for interior and exterior pictures of the building. Pictures not only document the history of the building but they can be used to accurately restore the theater by using historically appropriate building materials. Photographs depicting any era of the theater can be emailed to mainstreetsearcy@sbcglobal.net or mailed to P.O. Box 1127, Searcy, AR 72145.

When asked about the importance of the Revive the Rialto campaign, Main Street Searcy executive director and Revive the Rialto committee member Amy Burton said, "The Rialto is an architectural treasure and an important part of White County's heritage. There are so many fond memories associated with the theater for so many generations. It's a rare accomplishment for a community to still have an historic theater in its downtown district. It's important to restore historically significant properties in the Main Street district as a way to honor our history while preserving it for future generations."

Burton also mentioned the generous offers of volunteers for the project. The committee is compiling a list of those interested in helping with the Revive the Rialto campaign. For more information or if you'd like to be involved with the project, please contact the Main Street Searcy office at (501) 279-9007.

Tax-deductible contributions to the Revive the Rialto fund can be mailed to Main Street Searcy at P.O. Box 1127, Searcy, AR 72145. Checks can be made payable to Main Street Searcy or Revive the Rialto. Please note the donation is for the theater project. Donors can also visit searcy.com and click on the Revive the Rialto link to reach the committee's fundraising Website (GoFundMe) to make an online donation.