Rio Theatre

435 W. Milam Street,
Wharton, TX 77488

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Ken Holmes
Ken Holmes on November 12, 2018 at 8:08 am


I remember when you opened the Plaza back in 72', before the conversion. I remember seeing “What’s up Doc” with Barbara Streisand and Ryan O'Neal. I also saw “The Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County”, with Dan Blocker. And also lived across the hall from you for several months. I remember you were a true fan of Ray Price. Your post brings back memories. About that conversion, did you extend the balcony and put two smaller screens up there? That is how they converted the River Oaks Theater in Houston from one screen to three. ~ken

Chris1982 on October 16, 2014 at 4:20 pm

sepiatoone you might want to create a page for the original Rio.

sepiatone on October 15, 2014 at 1:48 pm

I found the opening day information for the original 1935 Rio. It opened on Easter Sunday, April 21, 1935. The premier feature was “It Happened One Night” with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. The original Rio was located in the Vineyard Building on the corner of Milam Street and Richmond Road. That building was demolished in December 1991.

Greg100 on November 11, 2013 at 2:05 pm

I was the general manager of the Rio Theatre in Wharton from summer 1972 untl June of 1975. I also managed the Plaza Theatre at the same time. It was during this period that the Plaza went through a major conversion from a one screen theatre into a three screen unit. When the Plaza opened as a three screen unit in June of 1973, the Rio was converted into a “R” rated theatre and remained so up until I left in June of 1975. I have pictures of the Plaza grand reopening that I will try and find and post. I remember we opened the Plaza with “American Graffiti”, but I cannot remember the other two features.

sepiatone on April 29, 2011 at 1:41 am

The last movie to show at the Rio before it closed was “Los Hombres No Lloran” with Jorge Rivero and Lorena Velazquez. That was on June 15, 1975.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 15, 2011 at 9:33 pm

Judging from the photo of the facade that CWalczak linked to above, this 1950 theater was not Spanish Renneissance in style, but thoroughly modern. Maybe it was the original Rio that was Spanish.

sepiatone on January 7, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Are there any surviving photos of the Rio’s interior? There were bas-reliefs in the lobby and auditorium when the Rio was new. Did these survive a 1967 interior remodel? Does anyone know?

sepiatone on November 9, 2010 at 12:56 pm

The Rio opened at 6:00 p.m. on August 13, 1950. The premier feature was, fittingly enough, “Nancy Goes to Rio” with Ann Sothern and Jane Powell. The Rio’s general contractor was James Kershaw, and C. Russell Lewis of Dallas, Texas supervised the artistic decorations.

CSWalczak on May 25, 2010 at 2:42 am

Picture of the Rio when “To Kill a Mockingbird” was playing there: View link

Ken Holmes
Ken Holmes on March 5, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Bob, the track used in “Two Boys” crossed N. Alabama Rd. The tracks ran along side Santa Fe Street. The view was to the north and the train was moving eastward. I don’t know if the train was a Santa Fe. BTW, I worked for Mae Jensen at the Rio back in ‘69-'70 for a while.

sepiatone on February 17, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Thanks, Ken, for the information. This is slightly off-topic, but was the passing train in “Two Boys” a Southern Pacific train? Back in the day, there was an SP railroad crossing down the street from the Rio (It’s now a Kansas City Southern track). I wonder if that’s where the train scene was filmed.

Ken Holmes
Ken Holmes on January 29, 2010 at 10:22 am

A television pilot was filmed in Wharton in 1970. The Rio was closed to the public for three days while filming was done inside. Sadly, this footage was left on the cutting room floor. I saw the pilot when it aired. It began with a passing train. As the last car went by there was a city limit sign, “Wharton Wisconsin”. The only information I have ever found on this pilot is linked below.

cleanmar on August 31, 2008 at 2:18 am

Wharton is still the home of horton foote and the the premier of “Baby the Rain Must Fall” was held there.Mr.Footes eternal query.Can one ever go home?,still resonates in my mind. Years of living made me realize that the answer is not subjective.One can never truly go home except in their memory for home in this sense is forever relegated to a specific place in time.