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Historic theater in Canton reopens

SUN-GAZETTE STAFF PHOTO The Rialto Theatre in Canton has reopened.

The Rialto Theatre in Canton celebrated its grand reopening as the Western Bradford County Rialto Theatre in early April.

The Western Bradford County Rialto Theatre has a long history in Canton that dates back to when it first opened as the Crawford Theater in 1912. On October 30, 1940, the theatre was taken over by Lou Smithgall and became the The Rialto Theatre that continued to serve the community until being sold in 1979 and transformed into a church.

On Jan. 14, 1994 the Bradford County Regional Arts Council purchased the building and renovated it into today’s stunning 154-seat theatre. When walking into the theatre a person feels like they are going back into time when life was simpler. There was a time when Canton was home to the famous Lee’s Circus and was a bustling town full of celebrities and worldly notables who visited Canton to drink the water from Minnequa Springs which was noted to have medicinal properties. One can truly recognize the history of this beautiful theatre when walking into the auditorium. The walls are lined with stunning mural scenes from Canton’s impressive past. What makes these murals even more beautiful is the fact that they were painted by renowned portrait artist, Scott Griswald Sr., a Cantonian. The murals embrace the audience with the history of Canton while bearing witness to the future of this amazing theatre and the realization of coming full circle has never been more evident than it was at the grand re-opening.

“We are extremely excited to have this opportunity to re-open this venue as the Western Bradford County Rialto Theatre. The Rekindle the Spirit, Inc. Executive Board, has been key in making sure that the theatre is able to stay open. The dedication of the Executive Board as well as the Rialto Advisory Committee, who are an amazing group of volunteers, have been key in getting us ready for this grand reopening. This is a theatre that wants to become an entertainment hub for all the communities we are serving.” said Bridget Callahan, theater manager.

The grand reopening was a celebration of the hard work put into this theatre by the new owners, the nonprofit Rekindle The Spirit, Inc., of Canton, and the Rialto Advisory Board of volunteers. Rekindle the Spirit nonprofit took over ownership of the theatre effective Jan. 1 after the Bradford County Regional Arts Council decided that it would be in the best interest of the theatre to sell it back to the community. Since then, it has been a flurry of developing plans with both the executive board of Rekindle The Spirit, Inc working with the Rialto Advisory Committee to make sure things were in place for the Grand Re-Opening. The event was a lot of fun for everyone who came and for the band that headlined at the event. The Big Fat Meanies, who are a Lancaster based band. The band recently took the Central Pennsylvania Best Rock Band and Female Vocalist of the Year for 2021 on March 24 at the Central Pennsylvania Music Awards ceremony. Their unique style of music and the wonderful personalities of all the volunteers made for a night of fun by everyone who was in attendance.

The future for the Western Bradford County Rialto theatre is bright. This theatre will not only play host to amazing talent, it will be a place where memories will be made for the communities it serves. This is a venue that can be rented out for family events, friend events, corporate events, and school events while hosting high caliber entertainment and movies. If you want to experience what a community theatre has to offer, a trip to the Western Bradford County Rialto Theatre is highly advised. The volunteers and staff go out of their way to make sure that you are treated like family and they all have one main purpose in being there which is to turn this theatre into the best theatre possible. If Friday night is any indication, then the Western Bradford County Rialto Theatre is definitely on track to become the Biggest Little Theatre in Pennsylvania.

“As a mother of 4 kids I am very excited about the re-opening of the Rialto Theatre! It is going to be amazing that our own towns people can own, run, and take pride in our small town theatre. It is a great spot to take my children to experience different kinds of music, culture, and entertainment right in our own home town. We are so very lucky,” said Lauren Preston, Canton resident.

Upcoming events at the theatre:

April 29 to May 1: Movie: Ghostbusters Afterlife

May 20: Williamsports own Cass and The Bailout Crew will be performing.

Check out www.rialtotheatrewesternbradfordcounty.com

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