Rialto Theatre, 735 East Lake Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota (razed)

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Rialto Theatre

ca. 1953
Address: 735 Lake Street E
Neighborhood/s: Powderhorn Park, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Hennepin County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Year built: ca. 1920
Year razed: 1980s
Primary Style: Art Deco/Art Moderne
Historic Function: Theater/concert hall

Powderhorn Park Minneapolis Hennepin

Rialto Theatre, 735 East Lake Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota (razed)
(44.948351° N, 93.263213° WLatitude: 44°56′54.064″N
Longitude: 93°15′47.567″W

The history of Lake Street would not be complete without an exploration of immorality, debauchery, and mayhem. Controversies arise in urban areas over issues such as vice, and Lake Street is no different. In South Minneapolis, pornography and prostitution have been two central controversies, with Lake Street residents and business owners on all sides of the debate. Is vice immoral? What are the effects of the sex industry on Lake Street, and for some, how do we get rid of vice?

The 1970s and 1980s saw the proliferation of vice on Lake Street. X-rated movie theaters, adult bookstores, and street prostitution became commonplace in certain neighborhoods. In response, local activists organized protests and campaigns to counter and expel vice from the area.

Way back when no one was watching, a young World War II veteran named Ferris Alexander established a newsstand at S. 4th Street and E. Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis. His stand grew to one of the largest in the country, after he put in 16 hour days, 7 days a week. Who knew that young man would one day become the “Patriarch of Porn,” the infamous pornography king of Minnesota, with a multi-million dollar business of X-rated theaters and adult bookstores dotting the Twin Cities landscape?

With a line stretching down the block, movie-goers eagerly await the opening of I am Curious Yellow, the first nationally released porn film from Sweden. It also happened to be the first film Alexander showed at his X-rated theater, the Rialto, at 721 E. Lake Street in 1969. The sexual explicitness of such films is what ultimately led to his conviction on federal pornography violations.

The Neighborhood Pornography Task Force, a local organization run by women in South Minneapolis, protests here outside Ferris Alexander’s notorious Rialto Theater. The Rialto was the most visible target for community protest in the surrounding areas.



The theatre was closed/demolished in the 1980s. In 2007 a parking lot occupies the space where the theatre once stood.

Memories and stories


I was 19 years old in 1969, and considered myself a rather sophisticated young lady. However, i learned just how naive I really was. My mother was a typical conservative housewife. The movie "I Am Curious Yellow" had received a great deal of publicity. The curiosity got the better of my mother. She did not want to ask my father to take her, so she asked me to go with her. So we did. What a mortifying experience. This is what I remember about the Rialto Theater.


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Right on Lake Street

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