They say it is the only theater of its kind between Houston and Brownsville, and it is located right in downtown Beeville.
The problem is, the theater hasn't been functional for decades. It closed in 1986 because other theaters were being built in the area; but a group of concerned citizens bought the theater and have been trying to restore it to its original state.
It is hard to believe by looking at it now, but once upon a time, the Hall-Rialto Theater was a masterpiece; a hybrid of beautiful architecture and state of the art technology. It was one of the first theaters in the area to have air conditioning, and seats for the hearing impaired.
Now, the theater appears to be in a state of decay and deterioration, but a group of concerned citizens is working to change all of that.
"It would be a shame to have this go to waste, and have everything fall in on itself," said Mark Parsons, president of the Hall-Rialto Preservation Association. "It really is the only theater of its kind in South Texas, and that's why I think it's important that it be restored back to the way it was."
The Hall-Rialto Theater was built in 1928, and then closed in 1935 after a fire. It was later remodeled by a renowned architect who gave the inside of the theater a unique look.
"Well, the goal there, of course, we're going to extend the stage, and it's going to be a multicultural performing arts center for South Texas," Parsons said. "And actually, this is mainly a landmark for both Beeville as well as South Texas. The interior was designed by John Eberson, who is the same man that did the Majestic Theater in both Houston and San Antonio, so it really is an architectural gem."
It may have been a gem at one point, but that was a long time ago.
"The technology has certainly changed over the years, and the ways in which we tell stories has changed, but the need to tell those stories and the need for entertainment remains, and that's why bringing this theater back to life and getting it to work again remains so important," Parsons said.
A restored Hall-Rialto Theater would show nostalgic movies like It's a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street. Bringing the theater back to life would be a miracle in and of itself. Efforts to do just that have been going on since 1991.
The slow moving process has included asbestos removal, replacing the roof, putting in a sprinkler system, and electrical work, as well as redoing the marquee. The rest is cosmetics; and for that, another $800,000 is needed to finish the job, and restore the seating and carpeting to fit the theater's original state.
"If all the funds were available, I've been told it would be about 18 months to complete the project," Parsons said. "Now I don't know if that's wishful thinking or what, but that's what I've been told."
Wishful thinking perhaps, but a restored Hall-Rialto Theater is a happy ending to this story, that lots of people would love to see.
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