East Rochester resident Harald Dygert had the entrepreneurial spirit. At various times in his hundred years of life, he was a movie theater owner, homebuilder and developer, nursing home operator and apartment house manager. He was responsible for the building of the Forest Hills and Sherwood Tracts on the south side of the village.
At 17, Dygert began showing motion pictures in a small room on the second floor of a store in the village. His ambition impressed local businessman Harry Eyer, who put up the money in 1919 for a 1200 seat theater with a balcony, calling it the Rialto. It was in the early days of movies and theaters were springing up across the land. In the silent movie days before 1926. Mrs. Harloff, mother of Mark Harloff, founder of the funeral home bearing the Harloff name, played the piano and large pipe organ in the orchestra pit. Business was great, and in a few years the banker was repaid and Dygert had spread his movie operation into several small towns in western New York. Later, he leased them to Meyer Shine to form a major part of the early Shine theater circuit.
In 1956, Dygert retired from the movie theater business and leased the theater to former Columbus Youth Association director Jim Russell. The Rialto, long in the hands of a theater chain, once more became a hometown theater. Russell as a young man worked at the theater as an usher, stating that he had never wanted anything as much as to run a theater. Now his dreams had become true. Under Russell’s management, it became a family operation. His mother was theater box office manager and his father worked in the projection booth. Sister Shirley was helping at the candy counter and brother Stanley was ushering the folks to their seats.
Unfortunately, with the onset of television, the theater business declined rapidly. and despite the remodeling and renaming the theater to the “Capri”, Dygert finally had to close in 1966. He then remodeled the building into apartments. He also bought the land occupied by a Dairy Queen ice cream stand on the corner of East Avenue and Main Street, planning to build another apartment house. However, a local bank suggested that he build a nursing home for some clients who were interested in running one. Upon completing the Parkside Manor Nursing Home in 1973 he was informed that the clients had lost their financing, so he ran the nursing home himself until selling it to The Home Leasing Corporation 1982. So ends the story of the largest movie theater between Rochester and Syracuse.