RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A piece of Raleigh history is set to reopen this summer. The Rialto Theatre, which first began showing movies in the 1940s, is set to reopen under new ownership in the coming months.

The theater temporarily closed last summer when Bill Peebles, the previous owner, retired. Now, a new group, which includes Hayes Permar, has taken over.

It’s an opportunity Permar says still doesn’t feel real, “I am honored to be continuing the legacy that others have created.”

While he’s now the theater’s operator, he says “owner” isn’t a title that feels right.

“It belongs to Five Points, it belongs to Raleigh. It has an incredible legacy, and much like the Krispy Kreme sign or the aroma coming off the Char-Grill hamburger cooking,” he said.

Peebles, meanwhile, is confident that the new ownership will be able to continue the Rialto’s storied history.

“The more I talked to him [Permar], the more enthusiastic I became that we had found someone who can take the theater and do far better than I ever could,” he explained.

Peebles took the helm at the theater back in 1989. In the decades the Rialto has existed, it arguably faced no tougher challenge than the one a couple of years ago, when COVID-19 forced the venue’s closure for months in 2020.

“We were doing everything we could, selling popcorn on the curb, and basically doing repair work. So, it really scrambled the industry and you’re still seeing the effects of that today,” Peebles said.

And when the Rialto returns this summer, it’ll eventually be home to more than just movies. Permar wants to host all sorts of programming, including music, something he says is part of the Rialto’s history.



He adds that long-time supporters shouldn’t be afraid of any radical changes.

“We’ll touch up some things, put a fresh coat of paint on some stuff, but we’re not knocking down any walls. People will recognize the reality when they come back to it.”

While Permar is looking to add beyond the big screen, he says the first programming when the theater reopens this summer will almost certainly be a movie.