The River Theater on Main Street in Guerneville is where memories meet dreams.

And for new owner Jerry Knight, both are strong.

"I grew up in San Francisco, but when I was five years old, my family would come up to the Russian River for the summer and we would go to this theater," said Knight. "I remember playing outside on hay bales, and there was free popcorn."

Knight, 64, bought the River Theater last February. The building began its long life in the 1940s as a movie theater, and went through several incarnations as concert hall and nightclub during the &‘80s and &‘90s. Its last run, as Club Fab, ended in 2005.

Knight is still working on the renovation of the building, which he rechristened the River Theater, its original name. He concedes it's a long-term - and expensive - project.

With a potential seating capacity of 645, the River Theater is a big place, with two bars and five dance floors.

"I bought it for $600,000 and I put another $400,000 into it, mostly for the wiring," he said.

The reborn theater's opening show last June was a memorial for Knight's wife, Susan, who died last year. Knight has staged a handful of concerts at the River Theater since then, including concerts by Ronnie Montrose in August and Elvin Bishop in September.

Knight canceled the theater's planned Halloween bash because the lighting and wiring needed more work, but he has high hopes for New Year's Eve.

Active in the music business as a recording studio and live concert sound engineer since the late 1960s, Knight is comfortable dropping the names of rock-and-roll musicians he has known, including Huey Lewis and the late harmonica virtuso, Norton Buffalo.

The theater is laden with memorabilia and artifacts that include classic concert posters, ancient movie projectors and loudspeakers made out of hemp. But to Knight, the most prized items are the pictures taken by his wife during her career in photography and advertising.

"My dream is to restore the theater, put my wife's photographs up, start a film festival and have the best bands possible that I know," Knight said.

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. See his ARTS blog at http://arts.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.