'Belong to Raleigh.' Rialto's new owner pledges to keep integrity, expand entertainment options

Michael Perchick Image
Tuesday, May 9, 2023
Rialto's new owner pledges to keep integrity, expand entertain
The new owner of Rialto Theater in Raleigh is sharing his vision for famed venue.

Since its closure last summer, questions have swirled about the future of the famed Rialto Theatre on Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh.

Now, a new owner is sharing his vision for the future.

"I grew up about a half mile that way, I live about a quarter mile that way now. So the Rialto has been a part of my life since I was a child, as a teenager, as a young adult, as an adult. And as soon I heard that the opportunity was there for somebody else to come in and help run the place, it immediately felt like the right fit," said Hayes Permar, Managing Partner of the ownership group which purchased the venue.

Permar said the group plans to continue offering independent films, as former owner Bill Peebles did for more than three decades while adding live music, comedy, and speakers.

"The Krispy Kreme sign, the smells coming out of Char-Grill, the grass in Dix Park, nobody owns those things. Those belong to Raleigh. And the Rialto is one of those things for sure," said Permar, who hopes to begin programming this summer.

Peebles owned the venue for 32 years and noted the pandemic, which forced the temporary closure of the theatre, impacted future plans. While Peebles returned the theatre to profitability by the time he decided to retire last year, he felt it was time for new ownership to take over.

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"I just decided why do I want to rebuild the theatre a second time. I'm not a spring chicken anymore. I hear a beach calling my name, and I want to go and enjoy life a little bit. So I said fine - instead of rebuilding the business, let's retire and see if we can find someone who can do better than I have. And I think we found that with Hayes," said Peebles.

As he fielded interest over the past ten months, Peebles explained why he ultimately chose Permar's group.

"I think what attracted me to him the most is he thinks out of the box, and as you know the pandemic really scrambled the movie industry," Peebles explained.

The news of the sale and planned reopening garnered strong reactions from people in the Five Points neighborhood, including Bryan Wiggins.

"We're really excited. My parents had their first date when this was The Colony in 1954, and saw Bing Crosby and White Christmas," shared Wiggins.

Permar shared he's looking to work alongside businesses throughout the neighborhood, specifically those in the hospitality industry, creating a mutually beneficial relationship.

"I am a big believer in Raleigh's gotta build. We need big buildings, more people are coming here, we need new things. The city is not a museum. But at the same time, there's a balance. When we can keep a cool spot like this, and it can become part of a really cool vibrant scene that's popping off at Five Points right now, that's just a win-win for the city," Permar explained.

There are planned upgrades to the sound system, to make it more conducive to live performances, specifically music, and a paint job, as well as a possible refresh to the lobby, though Permar stressed the Rialto's iconic marquee will remain untouched.

"That thing is perfect as is."

WATCH | July 2022: Owner of Rialto Theater in Raleigh announces retirement

Is it the end of an era for a historic theater in Raleigh?