Historic Monte Rio Theater goes up for sale

Owners who bought the Quonset hut venue hope to collaborate with the new buyer.|

The nearly 75-year history of the Monte Rio Theater, housed in a former World War II-era Quonset hut, has taken a new turn. The property is up for sale.

“It’s listed at $1.5 million with Sonoma Realty Group,” said Kim Lockhart, co-owner of the property with her husband David Lockhart since 2021. Dan Jahns is their partner in the business.

“We’d love to run it as a nonprofit if the new owner wants to do that. Then it would be eligible for grants,” she said.

“It’s part of the plan. We never thought we’d own it forever,” she explained. “We wanted to get it up and running up and turn it over to someone who could fulfill the vision.”

Part of that vision could include turning the lawn area of the 1.26-acre property into a restaurant, beer garden or even a “glamping” resort. The theater has 8,000 square feet of space.

“Another highlight is the flexible zoning, which allows for a hotel, motel, wedding venue or musical venue,” said David Hunt of Sonoma Realty Group. “That’s a positive for investors.”

A Monte Rio merchant bought a surplus Quonset hut from the U.S. Navy in 1949 and converted it into a movie theater. It has been home to the Monte Rio Theater ever since.

“The Quonset hut definitely needs some repair,” Lockhart said. “We invested in the sound and projector equipment, fixed the roof and the electrical system.”

The Lockharts moved to Sonoma County from Santa Monica in 2020 and bought River’s Edge Kayak and Canoe, based in Healdsburg, which they continue to operate.

Rebranded by the current owners as the Monte Rio Theater and Extravaganza after they purchased it, the venue has been active as a venue for cinema. It reopened in October 2021 with “Up.”

For the opening of the “Barbie” movie earlier this summer, the Lockharts and their River’s Edge crew painted the theater’s exterior pink, the long-popular doll’s favorite color.

“We painted it pink for ‘Barbie’ but now we want to keep it. People love the new pink,” Lockhart said.

“When we bought the theater, it hadn't shown a new movie for three years,” she added. “Last weekend for ‘Barbie’ we had 600 people. We sold out every night.”

Lockhart also said the theater displays the world's largest remaining fabric from Christo's “Running Fence,” an installation art piece by internationally renowned artist duo Christo and Jeanne-Claude that extended across the hills of Sonoma and Marin counties for two weeks in 1976.

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5243. On Twitter @danarts.

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