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Rio Cinema, Dalston, set to launch £150,000 crowdfunder to save building – and build that second screen at last

PUBLISHED: 16:30 09 June 2017 | UPDATED: 16:04 07 July 2017

An artist's impression of what the new basement screen at the Rio could look like. Images used courtesy of Ryder Architecture

An artist's impression of what the new basement screen at the Rio could look like. Images used courtesy of Ryder Architecture

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Crowdfunding for £150,000 to revamp the “shabby” front of Dalston’s Rio cinema and build a second screen in its basement is set to officially launch next Friday – a year later than initially planned.

The Gazette reported last May that bosses at the struggling art deco cinema in Kingsland High Street hoped to turn their “precarious” financial position into a viable one through the project.

Fundraising for what was dubbed “RIOgeneration” was due to start the following month.

But the process of finalising plans for the major development at the Grade II-listed building has taken longer than expected.

In the meantime comedian Russell Brand has joined singer Paloma Faith in voicing support for the project. It has also been accepted as a Spacehive project, meaning the Mayor of London will match 45 per cent of donations raised, up to £50,000.

Executive director Oliver Meek told the Gazette: “By accentuating the beauty of the building on the outside and adding another screen we’re hoping it’ll encourage people to come back.”

And he estimates they could make an extra £80,000 from the 34-seat second screen, which could prove “vital”. The cinema, which is run as a charity, made a loss of £40,000 in the 2015/16 financial year.

“It’ll mean we can put money back into our reserves and give us money to improve wages and do more community events,” said Mr Meek.

“It’ll also give us a chance to be more adventurous if we see a more experimental title. If you have 400 seats and only get in 20 it’s disappointing but if you have 34 seats and get in 20 that’s great.

“At the moment we can’t show everything that people want to see, but then people go elsewhere. This way we should be able to show more documentaries, art house and film festivals.”

They are also in talks with planners at Hackney Council about the exterior and hope to paint it a darker colour at ground level to deter vandals painting it with graffiti. They also hope the installation of CCTV cameras might stop people using its walls as a toilet.

“Every week the council is having to paint over or we are having to scrub stuff off,” said Mr Meek.

“It’s a really beautiful building and it should look its best and be a beacon for the area.”

Plans to include a third screen in its “underused” circle space – touted in December – have been ditched because it “would destroy the feeling of the auditorium”, and soundproofing would cost thousands.

The second screen will be complete by October for a screening of Blade Runner 2049 if the bid is successful, and the exterior would be finished by November.

The cinema has already raised £15,000 towards the target at spacehive.com/riocinema even though the project hasn’t formally launched.

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