Upon completion in 1926, the Rio Theatre was considered to be one of the most beautiful and complete theaters in East Texas, and definitely the best to be found in the state in a town as small as Center. Originally named, The Shelby Theatre, and located on what was then the West Side Square, it was renamed in 1941 as the Rio Theatre. Not only did it boast of being one of the best, but it had such modern conveniences, including blizzard fans to keep moviegoers comfortable in the sultry heat of summer and heating in the winter months by natural gas. From the earliest reel-to-reel talkies, to the digital films which begin promptly at seven-thirty, the Rio Theatre has seen many changes, remaining one of the more popular theaters in the East Texas area, specifically Shelby County. In the summer of 2012, Mike and Nita were informed that the film industry would no longer process movies on reel-to-reels, but were moving into the digital world, where everything would be computerized high technology.
They were told the films would now only be available by satellite, requiring an extensive make-over of their equipment, and the purchase of very expensive, very technical machines that would once and for all replace their old films and projectors. At first, both Mike and Nita were skeptical. The expense was overwhelming. The idea of giving up that which was familiar to be replaced with something that was not, left them with an uneasy feeling, but without the changes, the Rio would no longer be able to receive the films and would have to be shut down. For Mike, who grew up in the motion picture industry from helping his parents run their movie-houses as a small boy to owning several theaters of his own, he had no option but to continue on with the new technology and make the investment needed to keep the Rio Theatre open. Making the transition from what could have been a difficult adjustment, Mike and Nita, and their friendly staff are still there at the box office greeting their faithful patrons.
For Mike and Nita, they are very pleased with the quality of their films, and the faithfulness of their moviegoers. Although it was a major adjustment learning new technology, they feel it was worth the change. They have 4 employees and are still at the doors after each movie night, thanking everyone personally for coming, and inviting all to the upcoming feature films, making a night at the movies the experience moviegoers all knew and loved as they grew up from the early days at the Rio Theatre.
Congratulations to Rio Theatre, on your Small Business of the Year award, Shelby County