Womanless Wedding Community Play 1927

The Arnold Community Theater (The Rialto) is the only theater still in use, of the three that have existed in Arnold.  The construction of the present brick Rialto building was completed in 1924 by Hawley Wehrley.  (It was erected on the spot where Mrs. Ulysses Twiss’ Busy Bee Café had burned down shortly after Frank Yost had taken ownership.) 

The Rex Theater, which had opened about 1916, was sold to be used as the Nazarene church in June of 1921.  On Thanksgiving Dayn and December 1922, two basketball games were played in the new Baptist Church – Walnut and Jefferson corner.  Before that time, the Rex Theater had been used for basketball games.  

Photo: Lobby photo 1934 from Noreen Mills book.

The Isis Theater was owned by Amos and Annie Ervin who had rented the north store of Fred Brown’s building (Reed’s Food Center).  Tickets were 10 cents for children and 25 cents for adults. The Ervins ran the Isis for three years (1922-1924) before selling their equipment to Hawley Wehrley, who then moved it to his new brick building.  To attract customers to his newly built Rialto Theater, Hawley made a deal with an Ohio China company.  Each movie ticket purchased by a lady on Wednesday night earned the patron a free piece of china (toward a complete 60 piece set).  

In 1929, the first talking picture show in the theater featured Al Jolson in “The Singing Fool.”  Hawley made further improvements to the theater, including lush seats and drapes, before selling it to U. A. (Ulysses) and Dolly Brown in 1934.  (An ordinance was passed that year prohibiting Sunday showings, then repealed by the town board in 1936 due to the huge numbers of folks attending movies out of town.)  The Browns operated the theater until they sold it to Jay Higgins circa 1953.  

Higgins remodeled the Rialto and put in new projection equipment.  Higgins ran it faithfully, with shows seven nights a week plus Saturday and Sunday matinees.  Admission was 50 cents for adults and 15 cents for children.  The doors were closed in 1977, due to declining attendance.  

L-R: Rose Bierman, Mary Becker, Sue Beshaler, Lori Stutzman, Heather Furne, and Berni Crow.

On a cold day, January 9, 1997,  Sue Beshaler, a long-time resident of Arnold, stood with one other bidder on the steps of the County Courthouse for a Sheriff’s Sale, waiting for her dream to come true.  She walked away, the lucky bidder, paying $900 for the old Rialto Theater.  In May of 1997, another round of remodeling began on the iconic Rialto, with the help of many community volunteers. 

Beshaler stated, “I think we started when everyone told us we were crazy.”  Her vision shared by the newly created Arnold Theater Board, was to have a building for guest speakers, movies, and community plays.  On December 1, 2007, a standing room only Christmas Program (“The Baddest Angel”) was the first performance in the newly refurbished building .  

The last weekend in July 2010,  “Grown Ups” (with Adam Sandler) was the first movie to play since the Rialto had closed in 1977.  

The Arnold Theater Board and a host of volunteers have continued providing Arnold and surrounding areas with up to date movies and entertainment.

(Some information for the markers was taken from the book “One Hundred Years on the South Loup” by Norene Hall Mills.  Written and Prepared by Berni Crow 1/26/20.)