Rio Cinema board warns ‘difficult decisions lie ahead’ post coronavirus lockdown as campaign group sets out to topple them

Rio Cinema in Dalston Kingsland.

Rio Cinema in Dalston Kingsland. - Credit: Archant

Cinema trustees have warned ‘difficult decisions’ lie ahead in wake of the coronavirus pandemic, as another campaign to ‘Save The Rio’ has been launched to oust them.

Trustees have denied any plans to sell the cinema to a commercial chain after a new ‘Save the Rio’ campaign suggested they are trying to “push a corporate a agenda”.

Calling for the board to step down, campaigners said: “They have been moving towards a bare bones staffing structure for some time but are now using the Covid-19 crisis to push this through. They have also mooted looking for other operators, meaning the Rio would no longer be the independent cinema we love.”

READ MORE: ‘We’re punching above our weight’: Dalston’s Rio is crowned the UK’s best cinema at the Screen Awards 2019READ MORE: Rio cinema call to arms: warning it can’t keep operating at a lossA petition demanding the board’s immediate resignation has gathered 3,800 signatures.

In response, the Rio’s board has issued a statement acknowledging the “devastating impact” the closure of the cinema over the past three months has had on its finances. It warns that it will likely have to take “some difficult decisions in order to safeguard the Rio’s long term survival”.

All but two members of staff are currently on the government’s furlough scheme, and the statement said redundancies “cannot be ruled out” as the Rio seeks to remain viable post-lockdown, when social distancing rules mean the number of seats might have to be slashed by 70 per cent.

“Based on our forecasts, and if costs are kept the same as pre-Covid, the Rio would suffer significant monthly losses on reopening,” they said.

“Our limited cash reserves mean we cannot afford these monthly losses. The Rio would likely survive only three to four months if we opened in this way. We need to build a viable business model to safeguard the Rio, and at the same time retain its independent spirit, and we are hopeful that this is achievable.”

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In 2013 trustees at the popular not-for-profit independent cinema in Kingsland Road, Dalston, warned it had a £50,000 shortfall, and urged people to use the cinema, which is run as a charity, or face losing it. In 2017 an appeal raised £150,000 to build a second screen in the basement to bring in funds for the 102-year-old cinema, which posted losses of £40,000 the year before.

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