Rialto Center for the Arts Closes in on Fundraising Goal

The venue is also closing in on achieving its film-related fundraising goal while preparing to host the return of the GSU Student Film Festival.

By: Apr. 30, 2024
Rialto Center for the Arts Closes in on Fundraising Goal
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One year after restoring connections to its roots as a downtown movie palace, the Rialto Center for the Arts at Georgia State University has announced successes from its first year of operation featuring the historic venue’s new Digital Cinema Projection (DCP) projector and larger Stewart cinema screen.   

The venue is also closing in on achieving its film-related fundraising goal while preparing to host the return of the GSU Student Film Festival following several years as an off-campus event.

The screen and projector additions, unveiled in a special ceremony on April 22, 2023—the result of a successful multi-year fundraising effort that began in 2017—enabled the Rialto 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.

The first year with the new screen and projector enabled the venue to host 12 film events, six large special events and at least two film centric GSU events. Marquee events of the past year at the Rialto included four Atlanta Film Festival (2023) events, the Atlanta Michelin Guide reveal ceremony, the BronzeLens Women Superstars Gala Honors and six largescale film premieres including:

· “Praise This” world premiere hosted by Universal Pictures

· “Xernona Clayton: A Life in Black & White” featuring the civil rights icon and fellow panel guest Andrew Young

· “American Experience: The Harvest” documentary film featuring Atlanta Pulitzer Prize winner Doug Blackmon

· “Maxine’s Baby: The Tyler Perry Story” Atlanta premiere presented by Amazon Studios

· Atlanta Film Festival presentations of Atlanta premieres for “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” as well as “Big Boss” and “Night of the Cooters” directed by Vincent D’Onofrio and featuring an appearance by screenwriter/producer George R.R. Martin

Star power visiting the Rialto red carpet at these events also included Louis Gossett Jr., Keke Palmer, Kenny Burns, Chloe Bailey, Rainn Wilson, Nikki Toombs, Tom Luse, Tyler Perry, Anika Noni Rose, Vanessa Bell Calloway and KJ Smith.

“Installing the digital projector and screen gave the Rialto at least one, and in some case two or three, new special events per month during the last year,” said Lee Foster, Rialto Center for the Arts executive director. “This technology enabled audiences to enjoy several new releases and special events while enabling our events team to engage with the state’s thriving film and television industry to create elevated film premiere experiences.”

“We are particularly pleased with the volume of Rialto-hosted film industry events in spite of the 2023 labor disputes by the Writers Guild of American and Screen Actors Guild,” added Foster.

Two major studios so far—Amazon Studios and Universal Pictures—engaged with Rialto since last spring. 

“The Rialto’s cinema upgrades also complement GSU President Dr. M. Brian Blake’s strategic plan through which the campus can become a ‘college town downtown’ and sought after destination,” added Foster.

On May 2, Rialto will welcome the return of the GSU Student Film Festival presenting a juried screening on May 2 at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, with additional information available via the film event’s Instagram account @georgiastatestudentfilmfest and at the links https://fmt.gsu.edu/gsu-student-film-festival or https://calendar.gsu.edu/event/gsu-student-film-festival.

The venue is also collaborating with other GSU departments to create a Rialto Center film series for students and the public to enjoy popular films, with September as a target date for launch.

In step with the one-year milestone, the Rialto also is closing in on its additional $37,000 fundraising goal to upgrade its digital sound system. The recently 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.

Since April 2023, the Rialto secured $19,000 in donations through the Rialto’s Name Your Seat fundraising option; all funds are earmarked for the Cinema project.

“If we can raise just $8,000 more toward our $37,000 goal, the ACVB Foundation will provide a $10,000 matching grant as the final step in our overall, years-long film upgrade goal of $350,000,” said Foster. “This final upgrade to the Dolby sound system includes purchasing and installing speakers and other equipment, and we encourage movie fans to please help.” 

“The ACVB Foundation Inc. provided the first donation and now they will provide the last donation completing the project,” added Foster.

Contributions are accepted online via Netcommunity.GSU.edu/Give-to-Rialto by selecting the “Rialto Movie Screen Upgrades” designation in the pulldown menu. Alternatively, additional information about the Name A Seat option is available online or through the box office.

Organizations interested in booking venue options should contact Rialto Center Events Manager Christopher Duenow at 404-413-9814 or RialtoEvents@gsu.edu. Screen advertising and sponsorship naming rights options—to engage Rialto’s diverse audiences—are available; contact Foster via RialtoCenter@gsu.edu for details.

"We greatly appreciate the generous support of individual contributors and GSU’s campaign support,” said Foster. “They enabled Rialto to evolve from Where Atlanta Meets the World on stage to also include ‘on screen’ in the heart of downtown.”

Originally opened as the Piedmont Theatre in April 1916, in December of that year the 916-seat venue’s name was changed to Rialto—an exchange or marketplace—a year before the South’s premiere of the original (1917) “Cleopatra.” 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 up through early 2023, 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 Dec. 2019. The Rialto also hosted special events and screenings of the Atlanta Film Festival and the TBS Film Festival among its many film events.



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