Broadway's Rialto Theatre was whole-hog on
horror. Owner/manager Arthur Mayer designed the place to showcase mayhem and
his entrance drew patronage like flies to a light bulb. Collegiate Mayer kidded
selections, a go-to wit for trade columnists appreciative of this clear genius
who didn't take himself, let alone the biz, too seriously. Most chillers
world-opened at the Rialto
because its staff was hands-down best at promotion. Front and lobbies were
laboratories for how-to selling down the line. Ideas that worked best worked
first at the Rialto.
Distribution/exploitation staff from RKO/Universal H.Q.'s walked mere blocks to
see and learn how best to merchandise Bedlam and House Of Frankenstein. Often
the two worked in tandem toward most effective monster marketing. What clicked
here was figured to do so for customers nationwide.
It's happy days when Rialto front stills surface. Each is art to my
palette. Mayer didn't hang displays personally, but vetted final result. There
was staff who designed and built ballys, these customized from gaudy sheets of
big-head anarchism. Specially built archways loomed over patrons arriving, as
here for Bedlam. Mayer took his cue from fairgrounds --- all the venue lacked was sawdust
flooring. Folks could enter off the street or walk up from subway
platforms. The place exuded more crass than class, Broadway's black sheep of
first-runners. I wish I'd been on hand to roll out file cabinets when they
closed, as chances are there were photos taken of every campaign done. What can be
salvaged from trades has, and will continue to be, posted here.