It’s A Wonderful Life, South Pasadena

Holiday screening at the beloved Rialto brings out the community

Wow! How fun was that, South Pasadena? Twenty years ago, my husband and I used to walk to the Rialto to see a movie and have dinner. At some point there was a darling Italian place next door that had amazing ravioli, remember? So it was with great anticipation that I walked to the Rialto Sunday evening, watching a few hundred South Pasadenans, in coats and festive scarves, making their way to the lit up Rialto to see a screening of “It’s A Wonderful Life”.

PHOTO: | The crowd inside the Rialto waiting for the film to begin

Approaching the theatre, there was a crowd gathered and vintage cars parked out front as ushers decked out in period costumes were in the ticket booth, at the door and behind the concessions bar. Speaking of concessions, folks lined up for 5 cent, yes 5 cent classic candy and popcorn as carolers sang Christmas songs in the lobby accompanied by a pianist. Two large, festooned Christmas trees adorned the lobby, everyone received a playbill that came with an invitation to the little after party and the overall mood was very festive.

PHOTO: | Carolers sang Christmas songs in the lobby
PHOTO: | An usher selling tickets in the Rialto ticket booth


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Now, I watch this movie every year and cry at the end every year. But what an experience to see it on a big screen in the beautiful Rialto and to share it with several hundred people; to laugh together… I mean the scene with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed walking home after the dance singing “Buffalo Gals” is worth the price of the ticket alone…and to hear the collective silence during the final scene because everyone is silently wiping away tears. The movie is timeless and it gets me every time, never more so than Sunday night at the Rialto.



As Jimmy Stewart winks up at Clarence and the end credits began the roll, the whole place erupted in applause, another thing you don’t see every day, and folks filed back out through the lobby and out into the crisp, December night. Next door, there was an after party given by Mosaic that featured a violinist, small bites and drinks and an ornament art installation where people could choose an ornament to take home.

PHOTO: | An ornament installation at the after party where moviegoers were invited to choose an ornament to take home

The entire evening was sponsored by the Mosaic church, the current tenants of the Rialto and is the first, big community event they’ve held after recently receiving the required permits to do so. They have expressed to the City Council and the Friends of the Rialto that they intend to host more events like this that are geared towards the community. For the South Pasadenans in attendance Sunday night, it was just wonderful to watch a movie at the Rialto again.