The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Oklahomans in Action

March 24, 2008

Old-fashioned entertainment: Rialto Theater in Alva has been the venue of cinematic good times since 1929

ALVA — If you can picture the theater in the 2001 movie “The Majestic,” you can imagine the Rialto theater.

Johnny Jones is the owner of the Rialto Theater in Alva. The theater dates back to 1948, and it has all the hallmarks of the old time theaters.

Like the Majestic theater in the film, the Rialto is the theater that has been passed down from one generation to the next. Henry Jones, Johnny Jones’ grandfather, purchased the Rialto in 1929. At the time the theater had only one screen. In 1948, Henry Jones and his son, Homer, Johnny Jones’ father, tore down the old Rialto and rebuilt it with a stadium type balcony.

The Rialto would stay that way until 1981, when the Jones family sectioned off the balcony, so they could have two screens.

Today, the Rialto has three screens. The upstairs was split in 2001, so there could be three auditoriums, and Dolby surround sound is now offered for each screening. Today, the big auditorium is large enough for about 400 people, and the two smaller theaters can sit around 100 a piece.

With modern metroplexes popping up all over the state, Jones says there is no way to really compete without bringing in modern technology, and he is hopeful to continue the trend.

“We hope to go completely digital in the next ten years,” Jones said. “It all depends on who is going to pay for it, though. We hope to be able to survive the digital transition.”

His theaters now have 14 surround sound sub-woofer speakers that, oddly enough, use a technology based upon research about the way dolphins hear. The speakers were installed about ten years ago, with a philosophy based upon the ability of dolphins to hear each other from miles away under water. Research has shown that even humans tend to hear better under water, also in the age of people liking to hear things from all sides. A blatter separates the water and the bass speakers to maximize the sound impact, and Jones says people can really hear the difference.

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Oklahomans in Action