Community Survey Results

Thank you to the 179 people who filled out our community survey. 

The Rio aims to be as transparent and responsible to our community as possible. After becoming owners of the theater earlier this year, we issued a survey to learn more about what people loved about the Rio, and what we could do better. 

Of those who filled out the survey, most live in Sonoma County, are female, have lived for at least 40 years, and visit the Rio once per month or less. Here is the full breakdown of who filled it out:

Summary of Results:

Below is a brief summary of the results from the survey, with some additional highlights for different questions. Overall, the Rio team was amazed and impressed by the quantity (179 people!) and thoughtfulness of the responses. This community really cares about this historic Quonset hut on the Russian River. 

  • People strongly appreciate first run movies, but want also want alternative add-ons (independent, docs, classics, throwback movies, etc) mixed in. Definitely a preference for less violent, more interesting and family friendly, ideally two different per day. People would like more advance notice on upcoming films, and say they're willing to wait to watch a movie if they know the Rio will be showing it soon.

  • People want to preserve the Rio as a cornerstone of the Monte Rio community. Community events and involvement are very much appreciated (ie., special events, themed nights, live music, festivals, sing-a-longs, sport events). 

  • People love the community feel, the history, and nostalgia. They want the theater to be cleaned up, BUT preserve its quirky and historic character: hotdog baskets, murals inside, local employees/youth. 

  • People value the affordability of both the food and the movie tickets, and the opportunity to combine a movie with food. 

  • People want heat, and would really appreciate the theater to be warmer this coming winter. They also acknowledged how expensive it might be to insulate and heat the entire building. 

Pulp Fiction "Dinner & a Movie" at the cafe and on the lawn

Pulp Fiction "Dinner & a Movie" at the cafe and on the lawn

It turns out that the movie business is complicated, and there are all sorts of rules about what a small one screen movie theater like ours can and can't do. For example, the film studios sometimes force their higher priority films on theaters like ours (for 2-3 weeks in some cases), even when we request films that are a stronger fit with our community. We would have more control over our monthly schedule if we opt to give up our first run status, but it also means that we probably would NOT get the top films until several weeks later. 

The best part about these results is that they align with the Rio team's vision for further developing the space to host unique events on the theater, cafe, and lawn. In addition to the Dinner & a Movie series we've started, we hosted all sorts of family-friendly community events like The Sandlot & WiffleBall on July 20th, Pongapalooza on August 2nd, and our first micro-festival, the Farm and Food Film Fest, on August 16th. We look forward to doing similar events for the local community during this winter. 

In addition to these learnings, we also read some amazing stories from people about their memories of the Rio. The stories are so good, that we're planning to share many of them on the Rio Facebook page. Look out for the stories soon, and let us know if for some reason you'd prefer your story to remain private. 

What would you change about the Rio?

In addition to getting the theater warmer for the winter and adding more diverse types of content (movies, events, music), there were lots of things that people brought up to improve about the Rio Theater & Cafe. Below are some of the things that came up consistently. 

  • More comfortable seats (replace seats with couches, bolt seats, cup holders, consider a few tables to eat food)., and clean the bathrooms
  • Get rid of or clean the ceiling: Despite people's appreciation of the Christo cloth, people definitely want it to be cleaned. Some people felt it should be removed, and others thought it should be reinstalled after cleaning. 
  • Fix exterior: paint over mural/complete mural that faces hwy 116, fix light on Rio sign / restore the neon Rio sign, fix the leaks, refresh the paint and decaying wood in front of the building.
  • Earlier & Later Movies: Lots of different opinions here, as many felt that 7pm is a little too early, especially in the summer. Others wanted an earlier weekend matinee and a late screening, and people would like more than one movie per day. 
  • Better food & drinks: more imaginative and appealing munchies, better snacks, better tasting popcorn, something in addition to dogs: burritos, hot/cold sandwiches, healthier food options, beer and wine, and better coffee. 
  • Pre-movie slides: Some asked to stop vacation slides, some requested bringing back (local) advertising slides. Maybe we could invite people from the community to submit images from their travel online, and show them along with historical photos of Monte Rio and the Russian River area. 
  • Make use of the outdoor space: Variety of stores in the huts, crafts fair, farmers market on Saturdays. Use lawn and closeness to river (beer garden, outdoor pit barbecue, floating bar), outdoor movies in summer, expand cafe into theater area (like at the Oscars). 

There are so many great ideas here! If you'd like to help make something happen at the Rio, just reach out to us. We're really nice and really like meeting new people. 

What are your ideas for the Rio? 

People also had lots of ideas for the Rio, some of which we're working on like live music and events on the lawn. Ultimately, many people continue to have really fun, crazy movie event ideas. For those who are serious about organizing an event, go ahead and fill out the Programming at the Rio event form to get the process started. 

  • Rent the Theater & Lawn: Rent the meadow, especially for summer parties, business events, weddings & birthday parties

  • Live Music Events: Acoustic Live Music (and theater) and concerts -> see Arena Theater in Point Reyes for inspiration, an amateur talent night, theater or lectures, community meetings, readings, art performances, etc., sport events (baseball, etc)

  • Local Events at the Rio: “customer/community member of the month”, short film contest for local kids to record their films, make the theater available for fundraisers a couple of times a year: Fundraising event for the Russian River homeless shelter, etc -> use for the community.

  • Rio Cafe Ideas: sell local goods, extend Rio Cafe's offering, more high quality food, from local purveyors, better coffee and fresh baked goods, good sandwiches, pizza, make it a theater pub, serve ice cream and snacks on the lawn in summer. See Raymond’s and what they do with the community.

  • Buy Tickets Online: Fandango ticketing support for movies. 

  • More Movie Event Ideas: movie parties with costumes, celebrate solstice and the equinox, have mini film festivals (Bergman’s best 5 movies, silent film, theme festivals). Community nights: have different hosts to open them, discussion with the director and audience afterwards. Seasonal movies, parents with kids night, afternoon kids cartoons (especially Sunday afternoon), movies in Spanish. 

Thanks again to the 179 people who took the time to fill out this survey. The Rio team really appreciates how much you care about this amazing place and community, and we can't wait to continue building with you all over the coming months and years.