Rio Revival: Historic Theater Starts Next Act

From its unmistakable half-cylindrical steel exterior to its charming vintage interior, complete with a piece of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s “Running Fence” draping the ceiling, the small theater located in the town of Monte Rio is nearly as iconic to West Sonoma County as the redwoods and the Russian River it sits near.

This year, the venue and community landmark begins another era of events with a new group of owners dedicated to continuing the theater’s local legacy.

Now named the Monte Rio Theater & Extravaganza, the venue hosts an interactive community event this weekend and next, three screenings of the award-winning documentary The Truffle Hunters paired with wine and cheese tastings and a demonstration by real truffle-hunting dogs on Sunday, Nov. 21, and the following Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 27–28.

“It’s a magical place,” new co-owner David Lockhart says of the theater.

Lockhart has held a special place in his heart for the region ever since spending his childhood summers in and around the Russian River. After moving to the North Bay from Southern California in early 2020, he saw the theater was for sale.

“I really just wanted to help,” Lockhart says. “That was my initial thought; maybe I could join their team and bring my resources.”

When it became clear that the previous owners wanted to sell the space, Lockhart—a regional Emmy Award-winning producer and actor—created his own team to purchase the theater; including his wife and co-owner, Kim Lockhart, and partners Bryan Gallinger, Paul Popper DuBray and Dan Jahns.

Jahns and his family also recently relocated to Monte Rio from Southern California, and he also quickly noticed the theater’s “for sale” sign. When he met the Lockharts, Jahns joined their team to revamp the theater.

“One of the offers on the table was to turn it into a parking lot,” Jahns says. “We all jumped into action and organized a plan.”

In addition to making several necessary renovations to the World War II–era Quonset hut that houses the theater, the new owners’ plan includes expanding on the theater’s capacity for community events beyond films.

Thus, the group renamed it the Monte Rio Theater & Extravaganza to highlight the multipurpose venue’s ability to host a wide variety of extraordinary indoor and outdoor events ranging from concerts to festivals and more.

“We want to bring it back to being a gathering place for the community,” Jahns says.

Lockhart, Jahns and the rest of the theater’s team have already seen tremendous support from West Sonoma County businesses and individuals who want to donate to the cause or to simply reminisce about the theater’s past and share their excitement over its new future.

“This theater means so much to people,” Jahns says. “It’s incredible to see the positivity surrounding it.”

“I’m an advocate for bringing community together and having shared experiences and promoting artistic endeavors,” Lockhart says. “Having a community like this, where people come together and support each other, is integral to our happiness.”

“The Truffle Hunters” screens on Sunday, Nov. 21, and again on Nov. 27–28, at Monte Rio Theater & Extravaganza, 20396 Bohemian Hwy., Monte Rio. 10am to 12:30pm each day. Tickets start at $40. monteriotheater.com
Charlie Swanson
Charlie Swanson is a North Bay native and an arts and music writer and editor who has covered the local scene since 2014.
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