Protecting the most significant buildings, monuments and features of Maltese islands (56)

The Rialto cinema

The Rialto cinema in Misraħ Paolino Vassallo in Cospicua has a unique, striking Art Moderne façade with arched streamlined window bays and cobalt-blue tinted window glass. The cinema still contains original projectors, tip-up seating, balcony with side balconies and a stuccoed proscenium arch.

During the heavy World War II bombing of the Malta Dockyards, numerous buildings in the vicinity of Dock No.1 were heavily damaged and subsequently demolished. The government’s post-war redevelopment plans for Cospicua were finally realised in a downsized version during the early 1950s.

Part of the rebuilding scheme was the erection of a sizeable 1,000+ seat cinema.

Maltese architect Edwin England Sant Fournier created a restrained but striking Art Moderne design featuring tall arched cobalt-blue windows and a curved “tower” originally featuring a large sign depicting a Venetian gondola.

The strategically located corner building opened in 1956. It was originally accessed from the corner, additionally accommodating a small bank branch on part of its ground floor, as well as a cinema restaurant.

Built towards the end of cinemas’ golden age, the cinema was a major focal point of social life for Cospicua and the Three Cities and remained as such for three decades, further attracting patrons with its Cinemascope widescreen presentations. In later years the main lobby area and bank space were swapped. The cinema closed in 1988, no longer able to sustain itself due to the worldwide trend of drastically dwindling audiences (1960s-1980s). Mepa scheduled the Rialto cinema tombs as a Grade 2 national monument as per Government notice 1225 dated December 10, 2010.

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