The Long, Ugly Story of the Rialto Deal

Posted by Gloria Lagan on Wed, Mar 24, 2010 at 4:00 AM

The theater business is a treacherous, ugly mud pit where love is desecrated and money rules all—and especially in Santa Rosa, where the Tocchinis, the Coddings and the Duggans have owned or operated movie theaters for a collective 189 years. When Ky Boyd opened the Rialto in 2000, he could never have guessed the world he was entering into, nor could he predict that one day, ten years down the line, he’d be a new kid on the block caught in the crossfire of old Santa Rosa grudges and family alliances.

As everyone knows by now, the Rialto has lost its lease to the owners of the Roxy Stadium 14 multiplex theater, and there’s many places to read people's opinions on the subject here, here and here. But there’s not a lot of history being told, nor has there been an explanation of how theater operation, and particularly theater booking, works, which has resulted in a lot of unnecessary misunderstanding. Also, so far, no one’s investigated things like property records and perhaps most interesting of all, campaign contributions.

Let’s start at the beginning. Pour some tea. This is going to take a while.

The History

The Tocchini family has owned theaters in Santa Rosa since 1924, when Dan Tocchini’s father, Daniel Tocchini Sr., built the Strand Theater on Fifth and Davis streets in Santa Rosa. It’s now the Last Day Saloon, and still says ‘Tocchini Building’ on the outside. Tocchini went on to operate a multitude of local theaters, the names of which many old-timers will recognize: the Rose Theatre, the Empire Theatre, the Analy Theatre and the El Rey Theatre. Tocchini Sr. also ran as a movie house the Mystic Theatre in Petaluma, which is now a popular music venue.

A theater called the Cline Theater opened on Fifth and B Streets in the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake, which had destroyed Santa Rosa’s downtown vaudeville house, the Athenaeum. The Cline housed vaudeville shows, concerts and Broadway plays. Near the Cline, also on B Street, was the G&S Theater—it also hosted vaudeville and touring musicals. Both were large, beautiful auditoriums, both began showing movies when talkies came along, and both eventually had their names changed. The G&S became the California Theatre, and the Cline became the Roxy Theater. Though he actually once operated the Cal, it’s his longtime operation of the Roxy that will always be linked with Dan Tocchini, Sr.

In the early 1960s, developer Hugh Codding got into the theater business as well. At his Coddingtown Center, he opened the 20th Century West Theatre, which changed hands a number of times before rechristened as Coddingtown Cinemas in 1974. Codding also owned the Star-Vue Drive-in on Airway Drive, where there’s now an industrial area containing Creators Foam Shop, 24 Hour Fitness, Nancy’s Fancys and Azteca Restaurant, and later, Empire Cinemas in Rohnert Park.

The Duggan family had a stake in Santa Rosa theaters as well. The Duggans owned land where the Village Drive-In stood, which opened in 1952 and closed in 1986—it’s now a condominium complex behind a small strip mall across from Howarth Park, down the hill from the Villa restaurant. Local teenagers tended to call the Village Drive-In either “The V.D.” or “The Passion Pit,” in reference to the activities that took place in backseats of cars while horror and B-movies played. The Village Drive-In showed Jaws to famously packed screenings, and it was rumored that there was a speaker cable running across Montgomery Drive and up into a house on the hill above the Village Drive-In screen so the owners of the house, Joseph and Barbara Duggan, could hear the sound while watching the movies from their living room.

Two devastating 5.6 and 5.7 earthquakes hit Santa Rosa in 1969 and left many buildings badly damaged, including the Cal and Roxy Theaters on B Street. Because of the extreme damage, City Manager Ken Blackman made a special trip to Washington D.C. to negotiate an eminent-domain deal for a large portion of downtown land. As part of the deal, the Tocchinis received a settlement from redevelopment funds, and plans were made to tear down or relocate the historic buildings in the twelve square blocks that are now the Santa Rosa Plaza.

That’s a deal that Hugh Codding spent millions of dollars in lawsuits to try to block, because the mall would bring serious competition for his Coddingtown and Montgomery Village shopping centers. He justified his opposition by arguing, rightfully, that the mall would bisect downtown—but everyone knew that Codding had a great financial interest as well.

Meanwhile, Dan Tocchini Jr. began running his dad’s theater company. Most notoriously, Tocchini operated the Midway Drive-In at the border of Sonoma and Marin Counties. In the late ’70s, the Midway, like most drive-ins, showed porn, and local furor erupted over the fact that those driving on Highway 101 could actually at certain points see the action on the large screen from their cars. Tocchini continued to show adult films there anyway; the theatre eventually closed in the ’80s, along with the Village Drive-In and the Redwood Drive-In near Rohnert Park. In Santa Rosa throughout most of the 1980s and 1990s, United Artists, a large theater chain, ran UA5, UA6 and Coddingtown Cinemas.

Then came the late ’90s, when Tocchini planned to build a two-story multiplex off the freeway at the old Yeager & Kirk site on Santa Rosa Ave. The site had been vacant since 1993—utilized only to film scenes in the Wes Craven film Scream—and it offered plenty of parking and visibility from the freeway. But the City of Santa Rosa wanted Tocchini to build instead at the long-empty lot next to the transit mall, citing revitalization of downtown. That plea from the city gave the theater developers acute bargaining power.

How acute? Tocchini and Wasem, with the help of City Manager Jeff Kolin and councilmember Mike Martini, were able to convince city council to grant them a preposterous concession. Namely, a vote that no other theater company but Tocchini’s could open a movie theater in downtown Santa Rosa without first supplying and paying for a costly impact report and public hearing which could prove the new theater would not hurt business at the Roxy Stadium 14. Essentially, Wasem and Tocchini secured for themselves a guaranteed monopoly on the movie business in downtown Santa Rosa.

Codding, who still owned Coddingtown Cinemas and Rohnert Park’s Empire Cinemas, led the chorus of those raising a ruckus about the monopoly deal, and again was found trying to block something that benefited Tocchini. Once more, Codding and Tocchini were at odds. Tocchini ended up getting what he wanted and opened the Roxy Stadium 14—named in homage to the old Santa Rosa theater run by his dad. It wasn’t long before David Codding paid homage to his own dad by getting revenge on Tocchini.

Since 1989, Tocchini had subleased his Lakeside On The Plaza theater at 551 Summerfield Rd. from the Coddings, who held a 50-year master lease with landowner Lynn Duggan. In his ten years at the Lakeside (formerly an ice rink that Charles Schulz deemed unsuitable for hockey in 1968, inspiring the famous cartoonist to build the Redwood Empire Ice Arena across town), Tocchini had added three smaller auditoriums in the rear of the building. But the movie business was slow, and the theater required a lot of work while Tocchini poured his energies into his multiplex. After Tocchini’s sublease ran out in 1999, he opted into a month-to-month lease.

Codding was then put in contact with Ky Boyd, an out-of-towner who was interested in leasing the theater for the long term. Codding signed Boyd on for as long as possible, the remainder of his master lease with Duggan—ten years. Because of the conflict between the Tocchinis and the Coddings over the years, he didn’t give Tocchini the opportunity to counter-offer—instead, he gave Tocchini an eviction notice. Boyd moved in, compensated Tocchini for the theater’s projectors and other assorted equipment, and opened Rialto Cinemas.

Soon after the Roxy Stadium 14 was completed, Boyd and Tocchini—both local, independent exhibitors—emerged as the only theater operators in Santa Rosa, which is incredible considering Santa Rosa’s size (in most other cities of comparable population, chains like AMC or Cinemark run things). United Artists declared bankruptcy in 2000, and their three theaters in Santa Rosa soon closed. Coddingtown Cinemas turned into Beverly’s Fabric & Crafts. UA5 on Mendocino Avenue turned into the Universalist Unitarian Church and the Glaser Center. As for UA6, Tocchini took over operations and called it Roxy on the Square.

Originally, Tocchini had pursued the idea of showing independent films at the Roxy on the Square—now called Third Street Cinemas—and even talked with the Third Street Aleworks about the possibility of running beer lines direct from their tap beneath the ground and into the theater. But Tocchini came up against a major obstacle: Ky Boyd’s control of independent film booking in Santa Rosa.

Booking: What Really Matters

Theater booking can be a filthy, filthy business, full of cutthroat wrangling, bullheaded phone calls, complicated contracts and behind-the-back deals. The nice way to describe theater booking might be to say that it’s “about relationships.” The truth is that it’s merciless. Especially if your name is George Lucas.

Theater booking graduated to a new level of bloodlust when Lucas released his first Star Wars prequel, The Phantom Menace. Lucas knew he sat on box office gold, and ensured that most of that gold would go to him. Therefore, for a theater operator to show Phantom Menace, he would essentially have to be content with increased concession sales while the box office receipts went almost entirely to Lucas—at least for opening weekend, if not the first week or two, after which the contract went down to a percentage split.

Lucas demonstrated to other blockbuster-minded studios what kind of gutting could be done to theater operators, but The Phantom Menace was thankfully just a temporary oddity. The stronger, more permanent factor influencing theater booking around the same time was the introduction of the multiplex.

Booking contracts had already dictated how many screens a movie must run on in addition to how many weeks the theater is forced to play the movie. But the multiplex, with a dozen or more screens, offered studios a larger playground to play bully in. It’s not uncommon at all now for distributors to work exclusive deals with theater bookers—if you want Up in the Air, as an arbitrary example, you’ve got to commit to showing, say, three other movies from the same distributor. You might have to show them for a long time, and oftentimes on more than one screen. Even if no one comes to see them.

For booking purposes, theaters are demarcated into zones, and when there’s only one theater in a zone that books independent films, that theater essentially has a lock on screening independent films in the area. Not only can a theater make a deal with distributors for exclusive rights within a certain radius, but there simply aren’t enough prints in existence for a distributor to give a movie to two different theaters in the same booking zone. Digital technology may soon change that, but for as long as the Rialto’s been open, that’s been the case.

The Rialto and the Roxy are in the same booking zone—and hence, no movie has ever played at the Roxy and the Rialto concurrently. It’s the reason that Tocchini was unable to turn Roxy on the Square into an art house. All he could get were Boyd’s leftovers. A big misconception that the Rialto’s supporters have subscribed to is that Tocchini has had the chance to run an art house on Third Street this whole time. Boyd has had a lock on independent film booking in the Santa Rosa zone, and he knows it. To say that Tocchini had any chance of running an art house at Third Street Cinemas is absurd.

The booking separation between the two theaters is assured further in that both companies have repositories for underperforming movies that they're contractually obligated to keep playing. The Roxy once commonly picked up films whose contract with the Rialto ran out; that changed with Boyd's  introduction of 'Movies In the Morning,' a 10:30am dumping ground for movies now signed to much longer contracts. Likewise, Tocchini now utilizes Third Street Cinemas for the same convenient purpose. But don't call it 'second-run.' With DVDs now being released just three months after theatrical release, the second-run movie is a relic of the past—it’s replaced these days by a backlog of stale films at first-run theaters, immovable due to aggressive booking.

It's not as if Tocchini hates independent films. Right now, at Tocchini’s other eleven theaters, you’ll see that along with mainstream fare, nearly all of them are showing Crazy Heart, The Hurt Locker, and The Ghost Writer—independent movies that the Rialto is also currently playing. They’re just not playing at the Roxy, because they can’t. What’s playing at Boyd’s other theaters? Diehard Rialto fans might be surprised to see titles like She’s Out of My League, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Alice in Wonderland. They’re just not playing at the Rialto. Because they can’t.

This strict separation doesn’t mean that bidding wars don’t occasionally erupt between the Roxy’s booker Mike Timko, who conducts business in Santa Rosa, and the Rialto’s booking, done by Exhibitor Support Services LLC in Los Angeles. Acquiring certain films like Brokeback Mountain, O Brother Where Art Thou and Sex and the City have inspired long fights between the two theaters. The Roxy and the Rialto will often both show trailers for an upcoming attraction while their bookers drive hard bargains with the studios to get the film. And every time Tocchini loses a mainstream film to the Rialto, like Sex and the City, the thorn in his side grows.

How the Rialto Got Ousted

As everyone knows by now, Tocchini holds a signed lease for the Rialto property. Codding’s master lease is scheduled to run out on the Rialto property this September, and Boyd’s lease runs out with it. Boyd says that Duggan came to the theater in 2008 and expressed interest in keeping the Rialto on as a tenant, but Boyd had been getting the run-around from Duggan in recent months and grew worried. Then, on March 5, Tocchini called Boyd and said he didn’t want Boyd to hear it from anyone else: Tocchini had signed a lease agreement for 551 Summerfield Road.

This doesn’t mean Duggan handed the property to Tocchini per se. Who Tocchini signed the lease with wasn’t Duggan himself but Duggan’s new property management team for the Lakeside Center, Selway Management, Inc., headed by Larry Wasem and Richard Coombs. Of course, Wasem and Coombs are major investors in the Roxy Theater, Airport Cinemas, and several of Tocchini’s other theaters. They’re also the property managers for Tocchini’s Roxy Theater, the Airport Business Center and the Raven Film Center. This is information that’s listed plainly on the Selway website, and Duggan obviously knew that by hiring Selway as property managers for the Lakeside Center, he was effectively giving Boyd and the Rialto the boot.

Hugh Codding’s history and involvement in all of this is interesting and all—his lawsuit against the mall development which gave Tocchini a redevelopment payout, his protest against the city council’s generous concessions to the new Roxy Theater in 1999. But when it comes to the Rialto deal of the present, to use a film term, Hugh and David Codding are a huge MacGuffin.

The temptation to blame Codding is compelling. Some have said that if David Codding hadn’t awarded the lease behind Tocchini’s back to Boyd in 1999, Tocchini might not have been so upset and thus would not be so fixated on taking the Rialto back from Boyd. Codding’s actions couldn’t have pleased Duggan, either, because the Duggan family and the Tocchinis both amicably owned theaters in Santa Rosa for many years. Others have further pointed out that Codding-owned theaters, like Coddingtown Cinemas and Empire Cinemas, suffered from a dire lack of building repairs, and perhaps Duggan was displeased with Codding’s property maintenance. Surely, the skeptics say, Codding is to blame.

David Codding is an easy target. He's been rich his whole life, just like Tocchini. He’s been married many times over. He tried for a time to strike out on his own from his dad’s shadow by opening a string of Taco Time fast food restaurants. When that failed, he came back to his dad, who handed him Montgomery Village. But the fundamental turn of events here is that Codding’s master lease simply ran out. If David Codding had any say in the matter, he’d obviously keep leasing the Rialto property to Boyd. The key is Duggan.

Lynn Duggan is an elusive figure—he’s is an ex-Secret Service agent who for 29 years has run a private investigation company in Mission Circle called SRS Private Investigators. Among other business, he conducts background checks for the County of Sonoma. He inherited his house near Howarth Park in 2000, while his parents were still alive, and has overseen 531-573 Summerfield Road, a.k.a. the Lakeside Center, in the Duggan Family Trust since 1998. He has remained tight-lipped about his decision to lease to Tocchini, no matter how many people try to pry it out.

Duggan might simply not like David Codding, but that wouldn’t account for why he decided to give the theater to Tocchini. He could have gotten rid of Codding, hired a perfectly fine property manager for the center, and kept the Rialto on as a tenant. Yet he specifically chose Selway, and Wasem, and Coombs, and Tocchini.

The story so far that Tocchini tells is that Duggan’s late mother, Barbara Duggan, once told Tocchini in 2004 that she had known him and his family for a long time, that she liked him, and that she wanted him to have the theater back. She might have told her son Lynn Duggan the same thing before her death a few years ago. Duggan may have heard it from Tocchini in a sentimental ploy to acquire the theater. Who knows? It could even have been a story concocted this past week between Duggan and Tocchini to placate repeated inquiries from the media and to soothe public outrage, and it’s a perfect line. After all, you’ve got to be a heartless bastard to argue with a dead mother.

Will It Actually Stay the Same?

Boyd found out he’d lost the lease on March 5, but strategically waited until March 17 to spill the story to the papers because he knew the Tocchinis wouldn’t be around to tell their side of the story. On the day the news broke, they were out of town at ShoWest, the annual theater industry convention, running March 15-18 in Las Vegas. While Boyd controlled the conversation, thousands of people joined a Save Rialto Cinemas Lakeside Facebook page started by Allison Palmdin, a former employee of the Rialto, and uninformed speculation about Tocchini, his business practices and his plans for the theater ran rampant.

Tocchini came home and has repeatedly said he’ll keep everything the same at the Rialto, and that it’s in his best business interest to show the same types of films, to keep the same staff, to re-hire the same manager, to sell the same popcorn. He says he’ll first upgrade the sound and then work toward improving the “sight” of the auditoriums, which means installing stadium seating. He’s said he’s wanted to get back to the project of improving the theater that he first undertook twenty years ago.

But the main thing is that Tocchini says he’ll keep the same art-house programming come September. With Timko’s booking experience and connections, fulfilling that promise will be simple to do. More importantly, it would make terrible business sense not to. There’s a built-in clientele, there’s a built-in interest and there’s a built-in audience for independent, foreign and art film at the theater, and there’s every reason to believe that Tocchini will open on Sept. 1 and start showing the same exact kinds of films.

What to call it? It makes sense that Tocchini will call the theater the Lakeside. That’s the original name he used in the ’90s, and it’s a component of “Rialto Cinemas Lakeside” that will register in moviegoers’ minds. He’ll have advice on how to run the theater if he convinces the Rilato’s manager, Mary Ann Wade, to stay on—in her decades of working at theaters in Sonoma County, Wade has worked for Tocchini before. If she decides to leave, he has the advice of senior staff at his other local theaters, many of whom genuinely love the Rialto. Ironically, if Tocchini wants further free consultation, he has to look no further than the Save Rialto Cinemas Lakeside Facebook page, which is effectively a point-for-point primer on how to run the theater after he moves in.

One area that Tocchini says he’s passionate about is community outreach, and indeed, he’s already secured the Jewish Film Festival for the fall and says he wants to work with each and every charity that the Rialto works with currently; to do “just as much if not more” community outreach than the Rialto has. Currently, he sponsors special senior shows, he works with the Human Race, he hires clients of Becoming Independent, he sponsors pet adoption events through PAWS, and much, much more. Another thing that shouldn’t be forgotten is that Tocchini’s long allowed local independent filmmakers on multiple occasions the use of his theaters to screen their films, giving them a generous percentage of ticket sales.

But there’s one organization that may not want to partner with Tocchini, and that’s Face to Face-Sonoma County AIDS Network. The Rialto has since day one presented a gay film series to benefit the HIV organization, but doubts about that series’ future arise—if you look at where Tocchini’s investors have donated campaign money.

Following the Money

There are no political campaign contributions on record for either Tocchini or Duggan—a smart move for high-profile business owners—but Tocchini’s business partners, Larry Wasem and Richard Coombs, have contributions on record from the last 20 years that the Rialto clientele isn’t going to like. At all.

In 2004, between Wasem, Coombs, and their spouses, campaign contributions totaled $4,000 for George W. Bush’s reelection campaign. In 2008, the Coombs gave $2,300 to John McCain’s election campaign.

In 2001, Larry Wasem gave $1,000 to James Inhofe, the Republican congressman from Oklahoma who has repeatedly denied global warming; who has defended torture at Abu Ghraib; who has pushed to make English the national language and who is extremely opposed to gay rights. He has outwardly refused to hire gay staff. He is in favor of a constitutional ban on gay marriage. He is against prohibiting job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and is against adding “sexual orientation” to the definition of hate crimes.

In 1998, the Coombs gave $500 to Frank Riggs to defeat Barbara Boxer in the Senate race. When Riggs dropped out of the primaries, they funneled $2,000 instead to Republican Matt Fong in order to unseat Boxer. (Fong eventually lost to Boxer, despite having support from Trent Lott and Newt Gingrich.)

In 2002, the Coombs and the Wasems gave $3,000 to Mike Martini, the pro-development councilman and onetime Santa Rosa mayor who pushed for the Roxy’s monopoly in downtown Santa Rosa and who ran in the congressional primaries, unsuccessfully, to defeat Lynn Woolsey.

Further contributions between the two families include $1,000 to Alaskan congressman Don Young, who earmarked money for the “Bridge to Nowhere” and who once said victims of Hurricane Katrina “can kiss my ear”; $500 to Republican-in-Democrat’s clothing Joe Nation; and $6,100 to the campaign and Rich Political Action Committee of Congressman Richard Pombo. Pombo in total took $500,000 from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff—more than any other member of Congress. His history of scandal and corruption earned him the title “Enemy of the Earth.” Why donate to Pombo? Perhaps because his district includes Lodi and Manteca, where SR Entertainment Group operates movie theaters.

In other news, Wasem’s wife in 2008 gave $1,000 to Barack Obama.

Why All Of This Doesn’t Really Matter

Calm down! They’re extremely wealthy developers—did you think they’d be Green Party activists? Wasem and Coombs are just investors, nothing more. They have no say in how the theaters are run or what films are shown. There is no reason for Tocchini to skew his theater booking to please the politics of his investors. His investors don’t care. They’ll be happy if the theater makes money.

History has shown that Tocchini isn’t opposed to sex—he once showed adult films at his Midway Drive-In south of Petaluma, and during that same swinging era leased the Tocchini building at Fifth and Davis to a bathhouse. Gay sex may be dicier, but Tocchini is first and foremost a good businessman, and good businessmen don’t let their personal principles obstruct good business. Considering that he fought to show Brokeback Mountain, he could be an incredibly gay-friendly guy who happens to have a business partner that donated money to James Inhofe. Is it good business to have Wasem as a partner? You bet it is. Is it good business to continue to show foreign films, art films, independent films and gay films when he takes over the theater? Absolutely.

As has been widely proposed, a boycott of Tocchini’s new theater will mean that he’ll have to endure picketers on opening day and slow box office receipts for the first month. Perhaps the first year. But bereft of other options, filmgoers will slowly creep back to see the kinds of movies that Boyd once screened there. Even if all 3,000-and-counting members of the Save Rialto Cinemas Lakeside Facebook page boycott the new theater forever, that’s still the same number of people over at the Roxy Theater right now on any given single Friday or Saturday night. He’ll get through the boycott slump.

The reality is that it would take a miracle for Boyd to find another suitable location, to build auditoriums, to bring in seating, to buy projectors and acquire the myriad necessary operating equipment to get up and running by September 1. Would it were not so.

Why The Whole Damn Thing Is Heartbreaking Anyway

Ky Boyd is just as much a businessman as Tocchini. But at the Rialto, Boyd's love of film shows. He came to this area and took a risk on booking art films when no one else was taking that risk. He pioneered art house booking in the area, and he built up an audience of film lovers in Sonoma County. He believed in us. He trusted that we would care.

The Rialto exudes film. There’s old movie posters for classic movies like Gilda and Vertigo and Breakfast at Tiffany's lining the hallway. And since the films the Rialto shows don’t often have the benefit of television advertising, Boyd prints up one-sheets for each film, every week, and sets them in the lobby to let people know why the film is important.

When Tocchini takes over, he may have the same staff. He may put some classic movie posters in the hallway. If he’s smart, he’ll limit his onscreen advertising to an absolute minimum, if not eliminate it entirely. He’ll use real butter on the popcorn. He might try to sell local coffee from Ecco Caffe in Santa Rosa, or Laloo’s ice cream from Healdsburg, or pizza from Amy’s Kitchen in Petaluma. He can do all these things.

Most importantly, Tocchini can book the same kinds of films that Boyd booked, and partner with community organizations like Boyd did, and continue to genuinely enthuse the local community about the art and love and joy of film. He can do all these things. And it will be good.

But Boyd did it here first. Let’s never forget that.

Comments (31)

Showing 1-25 of 31

Being an art curator requires love of the art and taste. I haven't seen any evidence of art or taste at the Roxy. Also, the employees are very rude. They clearly don't love their jobs or care about how the public feels when visiting the theater. I don't go to the Roxy much, but I went to see Avatar. The man taking tickets at the door scolded me for having the wrong time on the ticket I had just bought at the ticket window. What was the point of that?

Posted by Barrie Ann Mason on 03/24/2010 at 9:27 AM

No horse heads in any beds, so far, that is good. Ky's dream was realized, that's good. I don't think this will keep him down. I am glad to know the truth, thanks Gloria!

Posted by Peter Wilson on 03/24/2010 at 12:36 PM

Thank you for the whole ugly story! I was only getting part of it with Chris Smith in the PD. I will definitely pass this along!

Posted by Arlene Houghton on 03/24/2010 at 1:00 PM

Thank you for the extensive history lesson. Money breeds Money, competition is good for the economy, unless you have no competition, then you have no creativity. When a small (?) businessman like Ky Boyd brings a wonderful business to Santa Rosa, and takes the risk of failure, then my greatest gripe is will Kyle Boyd be recompensed for his efforts? I believe Mr. Tocchini also took over a small independent theater in Monterey, the Dream Theater. It now houses a T-shirt shop for the massive amount of tourists on the way to the Aquarium. I digress. The only crime here is if Ky Boyd is not amply compensated by Mr. Tocchini for creating a winning formula of art films and business plan for a community hungry for culture. I can relate to having built a quality business in this county, finding it time to sell the business due to burnout and crazy economics, only to be bought at a miniscule percentage of my business' value. That's small business, in all its glamour. But - I did get SOMETHING for my efforts. I can only hope Mr.Boyd can say the same.

Posted by fred dodge on 03/24/2010 at 2:35 PM

This story is so much more lurid and fascinating than I thought it would be. Well done!

Posted by Nick on 03/24/2010 at 3:29 PM


Posted by Samantha on 03/24/2010 at 3:30 PM

Finally someone who sees reason. Mr. tocchini is not a corporate monster, he is local! He just has more movie theaters than ky. Thanks for the view in the middle. I believe he will make the theater better and play the movies the rialto fans like.

Posted by Eric peterson on 03/24/2010 at 4:53 PM

Ms. Lagan, Gloria, Thanks for the details. I've been following the coverage in the PD and commenting on the controversy on, but you filled in a lot of holes in the discussion. Question. What constitutes a film distribution zone? Is it mileage? Population? A combination of both? I'm very interested. I hope you have the answer or know someone who does. Thanks.

Posted by R. Miles Mendenhall on 03/24/2010 at 5:55 PM

Still heartbroken. One of the greatest jobs I've ever held was working for Ky Boyd throughout college. Saying he was a true pleasure to work for wouldn't do him justice. He has the biggest heart of any boss and/or employer I've ever had- I specifically recall holiday bowling parties that we actually looked forward to attending and vegan thanksgiving feasts for us veggie employees who weren't able to get home for the holiday. His passion for film is contagious- looking back, I blame him for my continued insatiable appetite for independent film of all walks... for longing for "movies in the morning".. when I would come in before my shift to catch an old classic, have some tea, and enjoy a cozy, intimate theater with a few equally attentive film-goers. Anyway, I'm somehow doubting stadium seating is what us film fanatics have always been longing for.. I want to be optimistic but I am filled with great sadness over this change of hands. And I am deeply disappointed in myself that I haven't visited the Rialto more frequently over the years, even if it is over an hour drive away. It was always worth it.

Posted by Callie on 03/24/2010 at 6:32 PM

Now THIS is Journalism!! Bravo!

Posted by Sean Bressie on 03/24/2010 at 7:58 PM

What a pleasure to read some in-depth history on the 'theater wars.' Thank you for rounding out the story and telling both sides. And that's some great bit of Sonoma County history! I remember those drive-in theaters! I saw Jaws at one of them -and couldn't step into water for months. But despite learning all about the inside story of the film industry, I still feel so sad about losing the Rialto. Ky has just done such a great job with that theater. There's something about having a small theater run by someone that loves independent films that just can't be duplicated. It has to come from the heart.

Posted by L Rarey on 03/24/2010 at 8:07 PM

What a terrific investigative piece: well balanced, I think, & certainly well researched! What an ugly situation. It seems like this is basically a long-standing, multi-generational pissing contest between 2 very wealthy businessmen, Codding & Tocchini, in which Ky Boyd & the Rialto got caught in the middle & got PISSED on. (The Codding & Tocchini families seem like the Hatfields & the McCoys, with an additional player, the Duggans, on Tocchini's side.) And the Winner is............. Tocchini/Duggan. (FIE on them!) The Loser: mature Sonoma County film goers

Posted by Louisa Nahem on 03/24/2010 at 9:02 PM

This article covers some history of Santa Rosa theatres I never knew. And also a ton of misinformation, such as who operated the California Theatre and Midway drive-in and bankruptcy of UATC (didn't happen), that George Lucas runs his own distribution company and that multiplexes started being built when PHANTOM MENACE was released, details of block booking that doesn;t really exist, etc. I have a few years experience having worked for UATC (now Regal) from 1972-76 before co-founding Landmark Theatres which became a national art film circuit. I now operate an independent neighbrohood twin in San Francisco, the Balboa and know how difficult that can be. This is clearly a David and Goliath situation. Ironically, in his earlier days, Tocchini was the David as he battled the big theater circuits and now he is Goliath. Boyd can be accused of trying to keep other Sonoma County theaters from getting films in their early weeks at the Lakeside, but usually the independent distributors just don't have the prints available and can't justify the costs, especially when there may be high grossing markets waiting to play a movie. With the Lakeside now one of the best performing art houses in the country, sometimes with better attendance for a film than a theater in San Francisco, it is in the distributors' interest to do what they can to keep those engagements on screen as long as possible. It isn't fair to use UP IN THE AIR as an example of a movie linked to booking other films. Despite starring George Clooney, the film was never positioned as a commercial breakout and most of the other films Paramount releases are much more appropriate to SR Theatres...and will play there. And the reasons Boyd plays commercial films in his Berkeley and El Cerrito venues has a lot to do with the Goliaths that he faces there, Regal, Landmark and Century...and that he has learned that those neighborhoods respond best to a more commercial mix. I find it interesting that nobody is really quoted. Who provided the author with so much information, true and false? The parts about political contributions are a stretch because many Republicans are also supporters of the arts and surprisingly, to some like art films. The article doesn't know what it wants to say, siding with both groups at different points in the article. The sad thing is that when an exhibitor comes along who puts loving care and the patience needed into creating something that had not existed before, i.e. a full-time art house in Santa Rosa, greed and jealousy can wipe out those efforts so quickly. And if Boyd gets another location, the audiences may be the losers as a bidding war will result higher film rental terms for both exhibitors and that could mean higher admission prices for audiences. It also will result in the loss of the current carefully coordinated strategy of opening films that keeps two movies with similar audiences from hitting screens the same week. So we learned a lot but don't pass it all on as fact. My father, a retail businessman who had stores in both Coddingtown and downtown, used to ask me to explain the movie business and would then exclaim, "It make no sense. This doesn't fit any business model I've ever seen." And he was right.

Posted by Gary Meyer on 03/24/2010 at 11:13 PM

OK - They're all local business persons; uhh, something about who contributed to what candidate has something somehow to do with this, I guess...; and booking is dirty business. OK. I'll buy all that. I go to the Rialto because I love the atmosphere. That comes from who runs the place, and how. I don't feel that at the Roxy, or 3rd St, or the Airport. I'm really ticked, so I won't go to the new Rialto, nor will I go to any of the other Tocchini theaters - which have always felt a little creepy to me anyway. I will go to Sonoma, Rohnert Park, Petaluma, etc - and so will a lot of other people. Some of those thousands at the Roxy are us, too - so I'd say these folks are about to make the worst business move of their lives, and they don't get it.

Posted by Pete Olson on 03/25/2010 at 2:18 AM

To Gloria: I need to comment on your obviously slanted, article written about the Rialto Theatre. While you give much history about the past movie theaters, who owned what and the transactions, you fail to leave out a lot of details and I see your article slanted as targeting primarily the Tocchini Family. You fail to leave out detail about Boyd, Duggin and Codding. Not that I think that you haven't waisted enough time slandering the other parties names and business dealings. I also see it very cowardly for Boyd to have waited until the Tocchinis were out of Town to "spill the Story" to the Newspapers. But if he is Irish - "Well Top of the Morning to him" and Touche - Really???? Seriously, how cowardly is all I can say. He had to wait until they were gone. Give me a break. You all are crying over spilled milk seriously. Grow up!!! Tocchini called Boyd as you pointed out in your article to tell Boyd personally and so that Boyd wouldn't hear it from anyone else. I guess you would call that cowardly??? No. Upfront and to the point. Your writing is slanted and you have left out many facts and have not written a balanced article, but perhaps that was your purpose? To do the same thing that you felt was done by Tocchini-Durgin and Codding. Your not much different in your approach and style of writing then those you have taken offense too.

Posted by Catherine Ansel on 03/25/2010 at 4:24 AM

To all: 'Gloria Lagan' is an account utilized to post an in-house group editorial by the Bohemian edit team. We welcome your comments and corrections. We did speak with Dan Tocchini, Ky Boyd, David Codding and Lynn Duggan. Other sources include Gaye LeBaron and Joanne Mitchell's local history volume 'Santa Rosa: A Twentieth Century Town,' the microfilm archives of the Press Democrat, the property files of the Sonoma County Recorders and Assessors office, the theater archive of, recent KSRO interviews of Boyd and Tocchini, and, a file of public campaign donation records. We also spoke with former staffers at both the Rialto and the Roxy, as well as former managers and employees of Coddingtown Cinemas, Empire Cinemas, Boulevard Cinemas, UA5 and UA6. Many filmgoers in Sonoma County have lined up behind battle lines on this issue and expect the Bohemian to do the same. We’re audacious enough to recognize the different kinds of value that both the Roxy and the Rialto bring to the community. The details of this story can be frustrating, but the theater business is as complex as it is influential to all. Movie theaters shape our lives. They are babysitters, teachers, matchmakers, friends. We feel an intelligent, informed discussion is important. Keep the comments coming.

Posted by admin on 03/25/2010 at 9:06 AM

WOW. I wish everybody talking about things they don't know would read this. Thank you for an in depth job well done. You are right, we are lucky to have two big independent exhibitors in Santa Rosa. Don't forget Dave Corkill of Cinema West. He has theaters in Petaluma, Sonoma, Cloverdale, Sebastopol and he is independent too!

Posted by Andy K. on 03/25/2010 at 11:21 AM

Still, a fair and balanced reporting job - TRUE journalism. Not what we see in the Press Democrat.

Posted by What_the_what on 03/25/2010 at 12:39 PM

Catherine - I don't think this article is slanted at all. It explains why Tochhini couldn't book independent films and takes a few digs at Ky, digs that you obviously agree with. Beffore I read it I thought Tochhini was the big bad wolf. Now I know he's a local owner who wants to do good with the old theater that was taken away from him but he's being shouted down by Ky's fans. I love the Rialto but I think people need to chill out and give Tochhini a chance. The business is ugly and yes Ky was part of that too but what are we going to do? Not support it when Tochhini shows the foreign and art films and documentaries we want to see? That would be stupid. If they don't make money, they go away.

Posted by brian on 03/25/2010 at 1:19 PM

There is one large ethical cloud that hangs over this history and "lease" transaction. That is the de facto expropriation of someone's (a rival's) business. "The Rialto" as we know it is the result of ten years of personal commitment, creativity and risk. The clientele, reputation, "the goods and services" have a hard-earned worth--and that has been hijacked. In the ten years of this lease, there has been a rise in the success and demand for small, independent and foreign films (Rialto). This is a class of films that has grown to dominate the Oscar field and is a coveted, although often small, part of the market. But then what could be smaller than the audience for The Metropolitan Opera--Live in HD? Nevertheless, Ky and The Rialto got it booked and it has played to sold out, reserved seat, houses! What Ky Boyd had the disposition, curiosity, taste and daring to program for the past ten years has been a credit to him and a boon to this community. What this story represents is a coup de theatre by a Cultural Oligarchy which sees no distinction between "movies" and "film." All is supersize me McCinema.

Posted by robert zinkhan on 03/25/2010 at 2:25 PM

What bothers me Andy is yes Gloria does have a lot of facts, and research and such, but it is not complete. It is the intentional rude undertones towards Tocchini and the Tocchini Family that feels slanted to me. This article makes him sound in the beginning and the ending of the article that he is uncaring, heartless, greedy movie theater mogul. There is nothing said about his dedication and Love for the movie industry. Just words written about him being a good businessman. I should say they are overtones. As far as what you didn't comment on that I said about Ty Boyd and his cowardness - if he still had the lease, I most definitely would not go to see one art film at that the theater, due to the cowardly, slithering sneeky act of waiting until Tocchini was out of town to write this newspaper and the Press Democrate and God knows who else he contacted. I have known the Tocchini family for more then 30 years and only know of Dan's generosity towards friends and family members and his compassion and love of the movies, movie theaters and the business as a whole. He genuinely loves this business. GLoria left out theaters that Tocchini purchase "The Airport Theater" and didn't mention the original name of the Mystic Theater "The State Theater". Why? because she probably didn't do all of her research. Research doesn't only make the article and we all know that. That is not what sells. Tell me who wants to make money in all of this? Boyd was caught in the middle of this, but he is not a child and I am sure was well aware of what he was getting into when he bought this theater. Please no more victim card here. I can't stand it. If he was such an innocent person, than why did he wait to go after Tocchini until he left for the theater convention?? Seriously!!!! All in all, I question his true intention over all of this. Boyd is like a screaming baby going after Dan and the Tocchini family and wants to steal his business, because he IS angry that he lost his lease. Give me a break. Again, Tocchini was forthwrite and let him know personally. Let's look at the actions of Boyd and his antics. Same mentality as witch hunt.

Posted by Catherine on 03/25/2010 at 3:32 PM

Well done! Thank you!

Posted by Jonathan on 03/25/2010 at 7:09 PM

First of all, thank you for the article. It's always fun learning more of your town's history. I have lived in SR since 95, and before we had Rialto, we used to go to the city or elsewhere to watch independent/smaller movies. I remember when Ky and (I thought someone else - I thought they were two guys) opened up Rialto. We exchanged emails with them telling them we hope they would make it, but weren't sure if SR had the crowd to make it work. We were hopeful, but doubtful. We told them about a video store in city (Irving St area) that used to carry independent movies, and how we wish we had one in SR like it. They knew exactly what we were talking about. They understood independent/small movies. Since then, we've enjoyed going to the Rialto and have been so pleased to have them. While we also enjoy movies at the Roxy, your article's last sentence summarizes it well. I wish Ky the best, and hope that he continues to operate a theater in SR.

Posted by AM on 03/25/2010 at 8:14 PM

Brian is right. If Tocchini opens in Sep. and this so-called "boycott" hurts his box office, he'll be forced to show mainstream movies. That would be awful. I don't want to be forced to drive to the city to see indie films. Ky did an amazing job at bringing art films into one theater, but people implying Dan Tocchini cares only about money are talking out their ass. I have met him and we talked at length about movies. He was really into it, and cared. I wish he didn't take over the Rialto cause I like Ky too, but boycotting the place that shows movies you love is shooting yourself in the foot. Unless you just like Ky? Not to be so cynical, but those who love good film will go to see good film. The business is dirty. Blame the studios!

Posted by SoCoFilm82 on 03/25/2010 at 10:16 PM

The Roxy is a shit theater feeding commercial vomit spoonfed to the duncecap masses. People lick it up with their money and the owners get richer. This whole takeover is fishy and reeks of monopoly, like he always wanted. Now Tocchini has it all-in his little hands. Whatever happened to a free market?????

Posted by Fed up on 03/25/2010 at 10:47 PM
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