by Gabe Meline
As I walked in to Summerfield Cinemas’ grand opening party last night, a friend—on his way out—stopped me. “It’s like the Sonoma County glitterati in there,” he said. “Even Sal Rosano is here. I almost touched his hair to finally see if it was real.”
He was right. In the packed lobby, after new owner Dan Tocchini’s speech, county supervisor Shirlee Zane got up and talked about the films that have inspired her, including My Dog Skip and Gosford Park. Former Supervisor Tim Smith—standing among friends who made fun of Zane while she spoke—kept his cool while exchanging glances with Supervisor Paul Kelley. Councilman Ernesto Olivares, poised to be the next mayor of Santa Rosa, characteristically said a few encouraging words and not much more.
SR Entertainment Group partner and developer Richard Coombs raised a toast to all those who’ve made the Summerfield Cinemas happen, including fellow partner Larry Wasem and property owner Lynn Duggan. Local boy-made-good Rider Strong got up and introduced his new movie, and walking around the perimeter of the crowd was former Santa Rosa Mayor Mike Martini, who ten years ago successfully pushed for the Roxy Stadium 14’s monopoly on movie theaters in downtown Santa Rosa.
Jan Klingelhofer, the film buyer from the Rafael Film Center who’s been hired as booker for the Summerfield, spoke about the importance of independent films, yet in the entire evening’s speeches, not a word was mentioned of the Rialto Cinemas or of Ky Boyd, who pioneered the format in Sonoma County. One conspicuous employee of the building’s former tenant was present, however: former Rialto manager Mary Ann Wade, in the lobby she once reported to every day, scoping the packed house and no doubt feeling completely bewildered at the crazy scene.
Movies at Summerfield Cinemas start today—and in a move that no one can find any reason to be upset about, movies at Tocchini's Third Street Cinemas are now just $3.00, day or night, all the time, starting now, making it the first true second-run theater in Sonoma County with discounted prices since Empire Cinemas in Rohnert Park closed over ten years ago.