RALEIGH — The Rialto Theater, located at 1620 Glenwood Avenue, opened its doors as a movie house in 1942. Almost six decades later, it still draws a crowd.
Owner Bill Peebles and his partners spent the last ten years restoring the neighborhood theater landmark. He says the key to success is simple.
"We've been so successful that a lot of our competitors have raised their eyebrows looking at what we're doing, but that's OK," Peebles says. "We can focus on what we do best, and that's customer service."
The customer service starts right at the front door. Peebles believes establishing a rapport with his customers goes a long way.
"They see you in the lobby after the movie. They stop and talk to you about the movie," Peebles says. "They tell you what you do right and they tell you what you do wrong." Peebles is more than just the owner. He is also the master of ceremonies. He says introducing a film is something he can do that the big chains cannot and adds a personal touch.
The Rialto only has about half the number of seats as some of the chain theaters which allows Peebles to focus more on quality rather than quantity.
"I think it's sort of like the hometown feeling here. You can come in here, recognize the owner and the people who are involved in it," says customer T.J. Wilson. "It's just a great feeling."
People who watch movies at the Rialto are going to get an eyeful. The screen measures 16 1/2 feet by 44 feet, making it the largest indoor screen in Raleigh.
It is the little things that count too. There is no pre-bagged popcorn. It is all fresh. Moviegoers can also relax with their favorite glass of wine or a cold beer.
Peebles says he knows he is doing something right when he sees the same people come back time and time again. It is proof that it is about more than just a movie, it is a cinematic experience.