Let’s Go to The Movies: The River Cinema 15 

Claire Arneson, Editor

The University of North Dakota offers students many fun and free activities for students on and off campus. A particular favorite amongst students is the free movie vouchers we get once a month. Student Involvement buys these vouchers at a discounted rate from the River Cinema 15 located in East Grand Forks, Minnesota. As a UND student – and a writer who reviews a lot of movies – the River Cinema is one of my favorite places up here. Movie theaters give us a sense of home away from home. I have fond memories of going to the movies with my family, and coming to UND is being a part of a new, exciting, big family. The River Cinema truly embodies a family movie theater that has an atmosphere of acceptance and inclusivity.  

Located right on Demers Ave, with a bright, big, blue sign, the River Cinema stands out, but the River Walk Mall (Center) was not always the building we know it as today. In 1997, the Red River flooded and affected both East Grand Forks, MN and Grand Forks, ND. The mall was turned into a place for businesses to get back on their feet commissioned by the city. As businesses were moving out, the city commissioned the Moore family to buy a theater in 2007. The city hoped it would help the community and brought them in because of their experience and vision. Bob Moore and Jeff Hatcher renovated the mall into the theater we know today, and the River Cinema welcomed customers in 2008. Moore and his family grew up in the business, running the theater together for many years. This lead to Penny Stai and Brian Moore -Bob Moore’s daughter and son- purchasing the mall, as well as the Cinema and The Shire Pub & Grill.  

The River Cinema and The Shire have a unique and indescribable atmosphere. It has a “log cabin feel,” Stai said. Her father built the theater with that home-like feel in mind. Whether you enter from Demers, the back parking lot, or the side door, you cannot miss the amazing decorations throughout the building. Stai says that she is responsible for the decor. When you enter, you will notice the door to the Shire is based on “The Hobbit,” and if you look closely, you can spot Gollum guarding this precious establishment. The menu has everything from a “Hulk Smash Patty Burger” to “Big Hero Stix” mozzarella sticks. The restaurant is immersive and fun for the whole family or a couple of hungry college students prior to or post-movie viewing. When you go in, you will see the bar with movie themed cocktail names, along with posters, cutouts, and statues.  

Movie posters from a variety of films, and to my delight Twilight memorabilia, line the hallways leading to the screens in the theater. There is something for everyone to feel nostalgic over whether it is your favorite Disney movie, or Alvin and the Chipmunks. You can feel the dedication and sense of family that Stai and the “River Walk family” bring throughout the building. As stated in the name there are 15 theaters, four of which are luxury seating, but every theater is spacious and comfortable when watching a film. As said on The Shire’s website, “over the years we have added an additional 8 screens, luxury recliners, more concession options, alcoholic beverages, and now our very own Bar & Grill, The Shire!” 

River Cinema 15 was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, like most movie theaters around the world, but they still managed to bring in customers, keep employees busy, and make the place we love so much open and accessible. From their website, the “River Cinema Family” states: “From our first theater in Blackduck, Minnesota to Fosston, Crookston, and East Grand Forks our customers ‘YOU’ have seen us through it all and we could not be more grateful. This pandemic has affected so many of our lives and businesses, and we are moving forward today with your support.” Now that we are returning to a new kind of normalcy, the theater industry has picked up. Some showings are behind, but people are ready to return to the theater.  

For me, the theater is an adventure. It is an escape. For the next 2 hours you do not think about the homework you have due or the test you need to take. You get engrossed in someone else’s life and someone else’s story. “Coming out to the theater is an experience,” Stai said. “You shut off your phone, you see the big screen, and you go with your friends, and I hope it never goes away.”  

When I talked to Stai about the theater, I had to ask about some of the top-selling movies they have seen. The new Top Gun: Maverick, Avengers Endgame, and American Sniper were just some of the most popular movies. They are still showing Top Gun because of its success.  

Not only does the River Cinema have more films hitting the screens, but they also have some exciting events happening. The River Cinema Grand Forks Comic Con 2022 is happening on October 8th and 9th at the Alerus Center. As stated on the Alerus Centers Website, “the River Cinema Grand Forks Comic Con is a treasure trove for both hardcore collectors and casual fans. The event will feature comic book, toy, art, and other miscellaneous vendors as well as cosplay parades and much more,” (2022). Tickets are currently on sale.  

For freshman, transfer students, and students who have never heard of this spectacular theater before, the River Cinema is for everyone and anyone. “It does not matter what you look like, anybody can go,” the owner says. It was an honor and pleasure to talk to this amazing entrepreneur with a passion for film and her businesses, so if you are in the mood for an escape or you want to have fun themed food, get off campus and head to the River Cinema 15. Run by a family, for our UND family. 

Vouchers can be picked up at Student Involvement (ground floor) in the Memorial Union from 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM through these dates: 

September 19th – September 25th  

October 31st – November 6th  


Claire Arneson is a Dakota Student Editor. She can be reached at [email protected].