Rio cinema call to arms: warning it can’t keep operating at a loss

Rio Cinema in Dalston Kingsland.

Rio Cinema in Dalston Kingsland. - Credit: Archant

Popular independent cinema, the Rio in Kingsland Road, Dalston, could be facing the final curtain if its profits don’t pick up.

Rio Cinema in Dalston Kingsland.

Rio Cinema in Dalston Kingsland. - Credit: Archant

The board of nine volunteer trustees are urging people to use the Rio, which is run as a charity, or face losing it.

The Grade-II listed screen in Kingsland Road, known far and wide for its shabby chic art-deco interior, is revered so much that last year thousands of people petitioned TfL for the bus stop outside to be renamed after the 100-year-old institution.

Catering for art house film buffs as well as screening popcorn-type “bums on seats” flicks, it also runs a charitable cultural outreach mission, with cheap tickets for the Saturday Picture Club children’s films, school events and free Sunday screenings for pensioners.

But chairman of the board of trustees, Patrick Lyons, said box office revenues have declined, especially over the past four months.

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Last month he sent out an appeal to their 500 members appealing for help to plug a £50,000 shortfall.

Supporters have since donated thousands of pounds, but it’s not enough.

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“The board is looking to keep as much of the spirit of the Rio alive as we can, but at some point if we cant secure funding for our programming we can’t do it,” said Mr Lyons.

“We lost money last year, I would be surprised if that wouldn’t be the same this year, that can’t go on forever,” he warned.

Mr Lyons thinks the great weather this summer pushed down ticket sales.

“Programming is as much an art as a science and some films didn’t perform as strongly as we would have hoped,” he said.

“Certainly since the Olympics we’ve noticed a reduction in funding which has generally been available from arts and the government, which has hurt us.

“Plus the world has changed a lot in the last five or 10 years. Everyone has something like Sky or the internet which can play the same role, so we have to work even harder to differentiate ourselves.

“But one of the reasons our crisis is serious and not grave, is the Woody Allen film Blue Jasmine is on and has literally been selling out every night. We think it’s going to be one of our best films ever.”

The team is looking to make internal and external improvements as well as finding ways to increase the café’s revenue.

Being granted a licence to sell alcohol – including beer brewed in Hackney – has already made an “enormous difference”.

Mr Lyons is urging people who treasure the cinema to become members. The £25 annual fee includes two complimentary tickets and £2 off the price of admission.

He added: “It’s so much part of the area’s identity. Imagine what the high street would look like with a black board, or if it became a bingo hall, you certainly wouldn’t have someone coming in and doing screening for the elderly on Sundays and for kids.

“It’s definitely an anchor in Dalston and brings people to the area. I would hope the Rio would last another 100 years.”

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