Santa Rosa’s Roxy cinema debuts new seats and sound after $3.5 million retrofit

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At the unveiling of the refurbished Roxy Stadium 14 theater in Santa Rosa Wednesday evening, three key words were echoed by city officials and Chamber of Commerce members in attendance: community, commitment and comfort.

The upstairs auditorium of the Roxy was filled with about 100 or so invited guests who celebrated the debut of the remodeled cinema while being treated to snacks, local wines and a screening of one of three newly released films, including the blockbuster “Avengers: Endgame.”

“We want the public to know what’s here,” said Dan Tocchini, owner of the Roxy and founder of Santa Rosa Entertainment Group, which operates five theater complexes in Sonoma County. “This is one of the most enjoyable theaters.”

The theater’s 14 auditoriums all have been refurbished with cushioned blue reclining chairs that can be reserved online or at the theater’s box office.

To make space for the larger seats and provide enough leg room for moviegoers, Tocchini said they reduced seating — in the largest auditorium it dropped from about 400 to 180.

Altogether, more than 1,000 new seats were installed across the auditoriums. The recliners are a growing trend in the cinema business and Roxy officials said they would improve the moviegoing experience.

“None of our theaters are like this one,” said Chris Johnson, the Roxy general manager.

Its blend of old and new makes it unique among local cinemas. The original Cline Theater opened on Santa Rosa Avenue in 1916, featuring movies and vaudeville acts. It was renamed the Roxy in 1934. The current building dates to 2000.

In addition to new carpeting and design elements, it now boasts the largest movie screen in Sonoma County, at 51 feet wide by 21 feet high, with a 7.1 Dolby Atmos system to create a rich surround sound.

“In Santa Rosa, this is a big deal,” Johnson said. “Most theaters are 5.1.”

Tocchini said the theater had “something like a hundred speakers, so (the sound) comes at you from all directions.” There are even speakers in the ceiling, he pointed out, so one could be enveloped in the thunderous crash of Thor’s hammer from above. The upgraded seating and sound quality were key parts of the $3.5 million plan refurbishment.

Amy Tocchini, who oversees the movie chain with her husband, Dan, said their goal is to help in the revitalization of downtown. The theater is just a block off Old Courthouse Square, with new restaurants and bars nearby and a boutique hotel set to open in July.

“It’s nice to have reserved seating, so people don’t have to rush,” Tocchini said.

“It’s what’s happening in the industry,” said Tocchini of all the upgrades.

“People want to see a movie in comfort,” said Dan Tocchini.

The Roxy project followed renovations made in 2017 to the Airport Stadium 12 cinema, the north Santa Rosa theater that is part of the same entertainment group.

Scott Timko, who managed theaters for eight years and was serving drinks at Wednesday’s event, said that “home entertainment has been borrowing from theaters for so long,” with larger flat screens and better surround sound.

“Now we’re doing the same: offering reclining seats and better-quality food and drink,” he said. The Roxy’s menu, along with standard fare, boasts paninis, quesadillas, pizza, Yanni’s sausages and local wines.

Attendees Wednesday praised the Roxy’s upgrades and the message conveyed about the business prospects downtown.

“We were very excited to hear about their remodel and investment in the downtown area, which is so important to the growth and vitality of our city,” said Bret Gave, vice president of the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber.

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