412 McDonald Avenue,
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The Rio was converted from an auto garage in 1943 to take advantage of the boom-town economy of wartime Richmond, home of the Kaiser shipyards which had attracted masses of workers from all over the country. It was a quick conversion using second hand equipment and quickly became a very profitable operation, open 24 hours a day and especially popular with the shift workers at the shipyards (another 24 hour a day operation).
Immediately after the war, business began to decline but the Rio, under a new owner, continued operating as a low admission price, last run “grindhouse”. It was in a rather rough part of town and had the reputation of being a real flea pit when I was growing up in the 1950’s. It was the only Richmond theater I never was in, although I admired the posters outside every time I got a haircut at the barber shop next door. Now I regret I didn’t go inside at least once…it probably wasn’t as bad as it’s reputation…or maybe it was.
Ironically, the Rio outlasted all of the other movie theaters on McDonald Avenue which numbered about eight at the beginning of the 1950’s (from the Rio to the Uptown). It was still showing double features up until about the mid 1960’s I believe and then closed and became a church.
I’m not sure what it’s current status is now…that area is an even rougher area of town now and I have no desire to check it out.
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