Rialto Theater

418 Main Street, Dear Lodge, MT


Rialto Theater Deer Lodge MT

Photo taken by David Jones in November 2016



Street View 


“What you hear and what you will see will linger in your memory like a beautiful dream,” proclaimed the Powell County Press when the Rialto Theatre opened with a glittering production of the opera Robin Hood in May of 1921. The Butte architectural firm of Arnold and Van Hausen designed the theater for Jens Hansen, Sr., and Peter Pauty’s partnership, the “Rialto Theatre Corporation.” The theater is a classic example of Beaux Arts inspired American “movie palace” architecture. Light-colored walls of glazed brick and rich decorations including ornate Corinthian columns, terra cotta garlands, and a mansard roof with wrought iron balustrade are elements frequently incorporated into this eclectic genre. Exotic, romantic movie palaces like the Rialto were designed to enhance the magical spell of motion pictures. Inside are marble wainscoting in the foyer, intricate gilt moldings, silk tapestries, elegant lighting, and air-cushioned leather seats outfitted underneath with wire hat racks. Equipped with state-of-the art projection equipment and a custom-built Cremona Theater organ for silent movies, the Rialto also possessed an ample stage, orchestra pit, and dressing rooms. The beautiful scenery backdrops made by the esteemed Twin Cities Scenic Studio of Minneapolis still grace the stage. The first “talking” picture was shown in 1929, and the stage has hosted countless high school plays, concerts, and other events. The partnership was dissolved in the 1950s but the Hansen family continued to operate this entertainment showpiece until 1995 when it was purchased by the non-profit Rialto Community Theatre, Inc.." - NRHP/Montana Historical Society plaque

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on February 19, 1998
Reference number
Architectural style
Late 19th and 20th Century Revival: Beaux Arts
Areas of significance
Social History; Architecture
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
A - Event; C - Design/Construction
Property type
Historic function
Current function
Periods of significance
1900-1924; 1925-1949
Significant years
1921; 1938

Update Log 

  • August 1, 2019: Updated by Richard Doody: Added historical information
  • June 28, 2019: New photos from Richard Doody
  • May 6, 2019: New photos from David Jones
  • December 28, 2011: New Street View added by Bill Eichelberger