Reinvented RIALTO Reopens for Business

Angie Ripple, photos by Zach Hoffman

With nearly a dozen events under its belt since opening night January 17, 2018, the newly renovated Rialto Theatre in downtown Bozeman is breaking its way as a new hub for culture and entertainment, as is their vision.

From peanut stand to cultural hub, the Rialto has come full circle and has been restored with memories of the past and a clear vision for a successful future. 10 W Main Street has been a post office, then an implement company, and then in the 1920s a movie theatre; “the grittier neighbor to the elegant Ellen Theatre across the street,” says Eric Nelson, architect with Thinktank Design Group.

The original Rialto marquee went up in 1924, but those who moved to Bozeman after the 1960s never did get to enjoy it until it was relit at the 2017 Christmas Stroll. The theatre fell into more and more disrepair throughout the 1980s and 90s until the doors were closed in 2005. The theatre sat empty until 2015 when the development company that also owns the Lark Motel purchased the building and began construction.

The hard work of design and construction has paid off to create a state-of-the-art venue. The (below)ground floor, called the Black Box, can feel like a nightclub; the second floor, where movies were formerly projected, is affectionately and historically named the Burn Box and is now a bar and food studio; and down the hall above the venue is the Light Box gallery sitting beneath a large gable skylight.

The ground floor was lowered a significant amount; the alley load-in area is on a hydraulic system that lowers gear to the stage. The sunken Black Box is surrounded by corrugated metal wall coverings with a hidden “light organ” behind, available to the lighting director Chris Cundy to provide additional lighting and a big city vibe. LED lighting can be found throughout the venue giving the audience an illuminated experience.

The Rialto’s creative director Dalton Brink has been tasked with bringing entertainment aimed at all demographics to the Black Box. From symphony, opera, films, lectures and musical performances of all varieties, the “Bozeman bubble” will be shattered by artists from around the world in a space where all parts of culture exist and all are welcome. Brink also coordinates local and regional art to be featured in the Light Box, beginning with a display of wool tapestries created by Livingston artist Meghan Purcell.

General manager Matthew Beehler says the Rialto’s guest-centric atmosphere is “meant to focus on the guest” with service and safety at the forefront and an experiential, surreal experience in store. The staff will be available for service as well as high-fives.

You can keep up with the Rialto on social media for pop-up opportunities to oversee the downtown landscape with a drink in the Burn Box. No hours have been set for the beer and wine bar to be open to the public, so keep your eyes and ears open for your chance to check it out on its own.

The Light Box gallery space will be on a six-week rotation of local and regional art until the Downtown Bozeman Art Walks start up in June. Then, artists will rotate every four weeks, and the space will join in the ArtWalk festivities.

A full calendar of upcoming Rialto events is available at You will have to be quick to purchase tickets over the next few months, as many shows are already sold out to the approximate 400 occupancy.   

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