Rialto Cinemas reopens under new ownership

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Independent film lovers cried foul in May when Rialto Cinemas owner Ky Boyd lost his lease, turning the building over to Dan Tocchini. On Wednesday, Nov. 24, Tocchini reopened the theater under the name Summerfield Cinemas, doing his best to preserve the environment the previous owner had created. While many were skeptical of the promises Tocchini made regarding changes to the cinema, most moviegoers will find that they hardly notice any difference.

Much to previous Rialto fans’ delight, the theater was not completely remodeled, just updated. Customers will be able to notice the changes immediately. The exterior received a fresh coat of paint and a brand new marquee, giving the theater a new vibe.

The interior was also upgraded. Each screening room received new seating similar to Tocchini’s downtown theater, the Roxy, updated sound systems and new interior decoration. The building also underwent some much-needed earthquake retrofitting and got a new roof.                   

            However, all of the classic aspects of the theater stayed the same. The famous popcorn made with real butter, as well as all of the other components of the snack bar weren’t modified. Most importantly, the selection of films the theater will show is no different than what the Rialto would normally play.

            Much to the public’s surprise, Tocchini hired someone to book Summerfield Cinemas separately from his other theaters, Roxy Stadium 14 and Airport Stadium 12. Most of the controversy that surrounded the owner switch was that the Rialto has always provided Santa Rosa with a taste of culture and vibrancy, and Tocchini has no intention of changing that.

            What many people don’t know is that this is not the first time Tocchini has owned and operated Summerfield Cinemas. In 1989, Tocchini took over the building, which was previously a church and an ice rink, and installed the five screens and seating.

Ten years later, while Tocchini was opening a theater downtown, Boyd took over the lease and converted the theater to the Rialto Cinemas.

            3rd Street Cinemas, which served as a temporary holding place for the Rialto until the theater reopened, has also undergone changes. When Tocchini reopened Summerfield Cinemas, he decided to convert 3rd Street Cinemas into a second-run theater, granting admission to any movie for just $3.

            With Oscar season coming up, it will be interesting to see if Tocchini continues to book independent and art films at Summerfield Cinemas. Currently, the theater is playing six independent films, including “Fair Game” and “127 Hours.”

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