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South Pasadena’s Historic Rialto Theater Eyes Revitalization With New Restaurant

The historic venue was a location in the 2016 movie La La Land

Rialto Theater
South Pasadena’s Rialto Theater
Dean Terry | creative commons
Mona Holmes is a reporter for Eater Los Angeles and a regular contributor to KCRW radio. She has covered restaurants, dining, and food culture since 2016. In 2022, the James Beard Foundation nominated her for a Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award.

The current tenant of South Pasadena’s 93-year-old Rialto Theatre wants to potentially fill the building’s empty retail spaces with a cafe or restaurant. That would be good news for the neighborhood, and comes on the cusp of the historic theater getting some recent attention after closing in 2007, most notably as a location for the Oscar-winning film, La La Land.

According to the Pasadena Star News, the Mosaic Church signed a lengthy lease at the property in 2017, and is participating in the building’s revitalization to attract non-churchgoers, including locals and visitors.

One plan senior pastor and Mosaic founder Erwin McManus has involves revamping the retail sections of the building on the ground floor, then bringing in an unnamed restaurant or cafe. Mosaic is accepting sublease offers, and wants these businesses to be open seven days a week.

Mosaic has been looking for a modern commercial use for the theater since signing a 15-year lease last year. Another of Mosaic’s pastors, Lawrence Fudge, says a theater is not in Rialto’s future plans. Today’s movie market favors multiplexes for profitability, and the Rialto is one of LA’s last single-screen theaters in Los Angeles.