An Affair for the Ages

Unique fundraiser will benefit two iconic properties.

Photos by Friends of the Rialto and Jason HOUSE The Rialto Theatre in South Pasadena and the Rockhaven property will benefit from a one-of-a-kind fundraiser being held on Saturday night at the Rialto.
Photos by Friends of the Rialto and Jason HOUSE
The Rialto Theatre in South Pasadena and the Rockhaven property will benefit from a one-of-a-kind fundraiser being held on Saturday night at the Rialto.


With Valentine’s Day just a few days away, supporters of two historic properties – the Rialto Theatre in Pasadena and Rockhaven in Montrose – are partnering to create a one-of-a-kind event reminiscent of Old Hollywood romance.

The Vintage Valentine Gala is being held on Saturday evening, Feb. 11, at the iconic Rialto Theatre in South Pasadena. It promises an evening of dance to the music of the Johnny Holiday Dance Orchestra, a peek behind the scenes of the 1925 facility and an exclusive screening of “Singin’ in the Rain.”

Emily Lanigan of Lanigan Creative Media is one of the organizers of Saturday’s event.

“I’ve always had a fascination with the Rialto,” Lanigan said. “It’s so much more than a place to see a movie. After learning more about it, like that it has 12 dressing rooms and was a huge performing arts theatre, I thought, ‘This is so cool!’”

Lanigan reached out to Friends of the Rialto and learned that the theatre had been closed to continuous operation in the mid-to-late 2000s and rented out only for special occasions, like the filming of several scenes of the multi-Oscar nominated film, “La La Land.” She thought the location would be fantastic – but for what?

As she mulled over the possibilities, she became more involved with the Rockhaven property. Like the Rialto, it had a rich history. Also like the Rialto, the property was in disrepair. She found out that the City of Glendale had accepted a proposal for development and she talked with the Friends of Rockhaven.

“I thought we need to change our strategies – we need to redirect focus from saving the property to show the city how we can partner with it,” she said of working with Friends of Rockhaven. “Part of what we know will make a visible difference to the city is if the property is self-sustaining and creates visibility for the community in a positive way.”

Talk turned to having a gala.

For Lanigan it was a light bulb moment – what about having a fundraiser that would benefit both properties? Whereas the Rockhaven property could not accommodate an ambitious affair, the Rialto certainly could.

It didn’t take long to work with both Friends organizations to create a vibrant, unique event that would highlight the historical significance of both sites.

“They’re both economic lynchpins in the their communities,” Lanigan said. “If Rockhaven can be turned into the property that [developer] Gangi has mapped out it could become a destination. Then everything surrounding the property would get an economic boost. The same premise is true with the Rialto. It would absolutely be a destination and boost the surrounding businesses and homes.”

On Saturday, when VIP ticketholders arrive at 5:30 p.m. they will be greeted by the band playing on the theatre stage. A mixologist will pour champagne cocktails from one of two bars and intimate tours of the facility will be given. A VIP buffet dinner will be catered by Gail Connell, formerly of Gourmet A Go Go and Tee’s on the Green.

Doors open to general admission at 6 p.m.

“We haven’t done a lot of decorating because the Rialto on its own is so spectacular – it doesn’t really need anything,” said Lanigan.

She added that much planning has been done for Vintage Valentine. In the mezzanine a photographer will be set up who specializes in retro vintage events. A dance floor will be available. A roving magician will perform some close up magic. People will be handing out Valentine’s Day treats including roses and candy.

And there will be no need to worry about saving that perfect seat for the evening’s screening of “Singin’ in the Rain.” When guests arrive they will receive a placard to reserve their seat.

Leslie Dickson of the CV Town Council will be among the guests at Saturday night’s festivities. She said that her time on the council introduced her to many of the areas treasures – including Rockhaven – and she is glad her family is able to support Vintage Valentine.

“La Crescenta was built on those types of sanitariums and it would be a disservice to our community not to save it,” she said.

She added that, as a member of the town council, she understands the need for a community center and could see that Rockhaven would be perfect to fill that need.

Friends of the Rialto was founded in 1983 by Escott O. Norton who said the group is dedicated to the preservation and revitalization of the site. He said that Friends of the Rialto is trying to raise enough money to become the leaseholder for the buildings.

“The point of these fundraisers is three-fold,” Norton said. “[We want] to raise awareness of the theatre, which has been closed for nine years. We also want people to see its potential other than a movie theatre, to show the capabilities of the theatre. Finally we want to create enough of a nest egg to do an interior renovation. Ultimately we would want to reach out to local artists to tap into the local arts community.”

“[Vintage Valentine] is going to be a real fun party. Everyone is looking for an excuse to do something special and it will be great to break out the tux. We want to make it feel very special and be an appetizer of what could be coming ahead.”

There are a few VIP tickets available for $130. General admission tickets are $100. A discounted rate for general admission tickets for CV Weekly readers is available by mentioning WEEKLY40. The code will take $40 off general admission tickets.

To purchase tickets online visit or call (818) 248-1707. Learn more at

The Rialto Theatre is located at 1023 Fair Oaks Ave. in South Pasadena.