March 28, 2013

Montreal theater making comeback

MONTREAL — From swing to sing-alongs, classic crooners to cover bands, Montreal’s majestic Rialto Theatre is enjoying a rebirth with a variety of original programming.

The Rialto, built as a movie theater in 1924, screened Hollywood film classics up until the 1960s.

“But like a lot of the older movie theaters, it went through a rough period beginning in the late 1970s,” owner Ezio Carosielli said.

The tough times for the Rialto lasted well into the 1980s and 1990s. During the last decade or so, the Rialto booked only sporadic engagements.

Enter Carosielli, who had some big plans for the space when he purchased it three years ago.

“It’s still a great-looking building from the outside and inside as well,” he said. “It was very solid. It had great bones. We saw the potential.”

While Carosielli and his team saw big potential, the entertainment industry wasn’t his first calling.

“I had the misfortune of being a lawyer,” Carosielli quipped. “But I always had an interest in the arts in a roundabout way.”

Another selling point for Carosielli was the location. The theater is in Montreal’s iconic Mile End neighborhood, which is just north of the Plateau district not far from Mount Royal Park.

“We’re in a great neighborhood,” Carosielli said. “It’s full of artistic people, and that helps us out.”

Carosielli and his team restored the space and added separate, smaller halls as well as a restaurant.

“We put in as much money as we spent to buy it,” he said.

And as soon as they signed the deal, “We started booking shows immediately,” he said. 

Carosielli opted for a wide variety of programming that includes tribute bands, concerts, opera, circus acts, stand-up comedy, thematic movie nights and evenings of dance.

“We’re looking for things that are interesting and different,” Carosielli said.

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