Marking a return to the venue’s roots as an urban movie palace, the Rialto Center for the Arts at Georgia State University announced the installation of a new digital film projector and cinema screen. The additions, the result of a successful multi-year fundraising effort that began six years ago, enable the downtown venue to continue presenting its popular year-round live events series and Georgia State’s student music and stage performances while also offering a new big-screen experience for Atlanta film screenings.
Originally opened as the Piedmont Theatre in April 1916, in December of that year the 916-seat venue’s name was changed to Rialto, meaning an exchange or marketplace, a year before the South’s premiere of the original Cleopatra in 1917. Among the first films of the theatre’s opening week were The Hunted Woman starring Virginia Pearson and The Havoc featuring Atlanta-born star Gladys Hanson Snook.
The Rialto thrived as a vaudeville and movie destination for several decades—eventually being demolished in 1962 and rebuilt to seat 1,200 in 1963—before declining during the 1970s and eventually closing in 1989. GSU’s purchase and refurbishment during the early 1990s led to its reopening as the Rialto Center for the Arts in 1996, with Bud Greenspan’s documentary film Atlanta’s Olympic Glory premiering at Rialto in summer 1997.
More recently, the Rialto also hosted dozens of premieres or festival and special screenings including Shaft starring Morehouse College alum Samuel L. Jackson in 2000, two Game of Thrones season premieres in 2012 and 2013, and Clint Eastwood’s Oscar-nominated and Atlanta-centric Richard Jewell in 2019. The Rialto also hosted special events and screenings of the Atlanta Film Festival and the TBS Film Festival among its many film events.
The Rialto made today’s announcement with two initial film events already secured for spring. The venue will host a private film premiere event on April 3, and in late April the Atlanta Film Festival (ATLFF) will host one of its special screening events at Rialto. Specifics for the ATLFF event—which provides the public with the first opportunity to experience the new projector and screen—will soon be announced by ATLFF.
For industry professionals or cinephiles, the new projection and screen equipment specifics include:
- DCP Video provided by a Cinionic Barco 4K resolution, 25,000 lumen laser projector. The upgrade delivers an elevated movie presentation with laser-sharp images, exceptional brightness, deeper contrast, and vivid colors, as 4K is four times as many pixels as 1080 HD.
- The hoist-animated, motorized screen is a perforated, 35’ x 19’8” Stewart Lexus Grande S8 with any aspect ratios of 2.35:1 to 1:1 square possible with manually adjustable side masking.
Other video projection and 35mm available at the Rialto:
- HD video projector at 12,000 lumens which may also be used to project images on backdrops or moved on-stage for rear projection.
- Dual-35mm projection with two matching Century SA film projectors. Rialto can present rare, archival and museum prints with minimal wear and tear because each reel is projected independently.
- The Rialto is currently a Dolby 5.1 theater utilizing Dolby’s CP650 processor. The in-house Meyer PA system may also be integrated into presentations.
The newly installed projection equipment is compatible with the venue’s current Dolby 5.1 Digital Surround Sound system. Additional funds will help the venue upgrade or replace the entire cinema audio system with eventual installation of new, state-of-the-art audio processors, amplifiers and cinema speakers.
The journey to update the Rialto’s film presentation capabilities was rooted in the venue’s long standing need, and nonprofit financial constraints, to respond to industry trends favoring digital over 35mm projection since the early 2000s. Over time, the cost to rent outsourced, industry-grade equipment, on top of standard venue rental rates, was a deterrent for studio premiere planners and cinema event planners.
The Rialto Center for the Arts at GSU is the cultural centerpiece of downtown, located in the heart of Atlanta’s historic Fairlie-Poplar district. Thanks to GSU acquiring and refurbishing the building in 1993, and revitalizing the district, the Rialto has stood at the corner of Forsyth and Luckie Streets for over 100 years. Today the intimate, 833-seat performing arts venue is home to the Rialto Series, featuring the best of indigenous and international jazz, world music and contemporary dance, as well as Georgia State’s School of Music performances.