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Dalston’s Rio Cinema smashes £125,000 fundraising target to secure future

PUBLISHED: 18:35 19 September 2017 | UPDATED: 18:57 19 September 2017

Rio Cinema in Dalston Kingsland.

Rio Cinema in Dalston Kingsland.

Archant

The future of Dalston’s cash-strapped Rio Cinema has been secured after it smashed its fundraising target of £125,000 to build a second screen.

An artist's impression of the exterior of the building after the refurbishment.An artist's impression of the exterior of the building after the refurbishment.

A Spacehive project set up earlier this year by bosses at the independent picturehouse today hit its goal with one week to spare.

It means a 28-seat screen can now be built in the basement, bringing in vital funds for the 102-year-old cinema, which posted losses of £40,000 in 2015/16.

Renovation work to the outside of the building, which is currently “tired and shabby”, will also take place.

The cash injection, which includes a £40,000 donation from Sadiq Khan, aims to make the cinema more sustainable so bosses can pay staff more and expand their work in the community.

The Rio Cinema down the years.The Rio Cinema down the years.

“We were confident but you’re never sure, it was a bit nail-biting,” executive director Oliver Meek told the Gazette. “But it’s been really successful. I’m genuinely touched at the amount of people who have given money.

“We have older ladies who come to the matinees handing us wads of cash and people who have been coming for 30 years donating huge amounts of money.

“It’s a really fantastic reflection on the local community. This is more than a cinema, people really care about it and hopefully we can do them proud.”

Work will start straight away on the basement screen, with Oliver hopeful of a winter opening. The exterior renovation will start in spring when the weather breaks. It will include re-plastering, new signage and metal work and LED lighting.

The Rio in its first incarnation as the Kingsland Empire Cinema in 1915.The Rio in its first incarnation as the Kingsland Empire Cinema in 1915.

Oliver estimates the second screen will see admissions go up by 20 per cent – a huge boost to the cinema, which is run as a charity.

“It means we have to a much more viable business model,” he continued. “The second screen will bring in another 12,000 to 15,000 admission a year. That will give us opportunities to do more. At the moment we have to turn down stuff.”

The cinema opened as the Kingsland Empire in 1915 during the silent-movie boom – at one point there were 13 picturehouses between Haggerston and Stoke Newington.

And Oliver is looking forward to working with the team bringing one of them back to life.

Auro Foxcroft, owner of Shoreditch venue Village Underground, is set to renovate the old ABC Cinema across the road from the Rio for his new project – The Hackney Arts Centre – which was given planning permission this summer.

“I’ve had a few meetings with Auro,” he said. “He explained what his plans are in terms of cinema presentation and they are not going to have a proper projector, it’s more cabaret theatre.

“I like the idea of Dalston being an arts hub a bit like Camden was in the ’90s.”

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