Many small towns have boasted their very own
Rialto Theater. Webster's defines the word rialto
to mean theater district. In the Texas Coastal Bend,
Aransas Pass has a performance and visual arts
forum right in the heart of downtown - one of the
few remaining Rialtos to survive and even prosper.
The Rialto Theater in Aransas Pass began its life as a
state-of-the-art movie theater in 1937, part of a
theater chain built by the Hall brothers starting in
Beeville. The Rialto seated 460 in "air-conditioned
comfort" with plush seating and an inclined floor to
allow unobstructed viewing of the screen. The fact
that you could get out of the heat and watch a
movie made for a perfect place to meet and maybe
find a bit of romance. Folks around town who grew
up in the area tell stories of meeting their first
sweetheart right there at the Rialto. Movies were
shown until 1991 when the theater fell silent after a
In 2004, new owners began a revival of the original
building which marked the birth of a new vision. A
year-round event schedule is in place, full of
traditional and eclectic performances in a 100-seat
theater auditorium which is fronted by a 40-seat
beer/wine bar, and gallery and lobby for art exhibits.
The seats in the theater are not the original
seats, but they have their own history. Some of
them were purchased at an auction from the Rialto
in Sinton, Texas; and the others are kin to Willie
Nelson. A lead from a truck driver friend led to
Carl's Corner Truck Stop, south of Dallas, where
Willie sold his bio-diesel. A theater there was being
refurbished, and these time-tested seats were for
The cherished original theater marquee was
destroyed when Hurricane Celia devastated the
Coastal Bend in 1970. The grand lady survived then
and stood tall after Harvey made landfall in 2017.
She has so much more to give to our community.
The Rialto Theater is an IRS 501(c)(3} charitable
organization powered by volunteers, fostering education
in the arts: visual arts, music and live theater
throughout the year in the Coastal Bend.