Second screen at Dalston’s Rio Cinema open after £125k crowdfunder – and could mean staff finally get London living wage

The new basement screen at the Rio, and the plush leather chairs

The new basement screen at the Rio, and the plush leather chairs - Credit: rio

Bosses at the cash-strapped Rio Cinema predict its new second screen could boost income by 20 per cent – and have promised to pay staff the London living wage if its fortunes are on the rise.

Rio Cinema, Kingsland High Street.

Rio Cinema, Kingsland High Street. - Credit: Archant

The independent picture house in Kingsland High Street, Dalston, smashed its Spacehive crowd funder target in September, with £125,000 in donations.

Since the 28-seat basement screen opened on December 29, screening Death of Stalin, they’ve had to turn customers away. On average 45 more customers have attended the cinema each day – equating to 15,000 extra admissions annually.

“That’s huge to us,” executive director Oliver Meek told the Gazette. “For a long time the Rio has been living by the skin of its teeth. Some years we have a small surplus and some years a large deficit. It’s just been ticking over for years and that’s not a sustainable way for us to operate.”

The basement room has been kitted out with “incredibly luxurious” second-hand cream leather seats, which were picked up for a “bargain price”, but would have cost £1,000 each new. A second basement bar is set to open by spring, when renovation work to the outside of the building – which is currently “tired and shabby” – will also commence.

Protesters outside the Rio Cinema in Dalston in 2016. Picture: Julia Sukan del Rio

Protesters outside the Rio Cinema in Dalston in 2016. Picture: Julia Sukan del Rio - Credit: Archant

Rio could even become the only cinema in the country to power its screen on sustainable energy. Solar panels donated by Upper Clapton firm Athena Electrical will be installed on the roof to power its projector, once cash is available for the scaffolding.

“One of the great things about the fundraising campaign is all sorts of people have got in touch offering different things, and loads of businesses were supportive,” said Oliver.

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Last year staff protested outside the cinema over a long-running dispute about pay and potential job losses. But the cinema has now pledged to become an accredited living wage employer by 2020.

“We hope the additional business from screen two will make all the difference and enable us to do this as soon as possible,” said Oliver. “All in all we are still pushing to be more ethical, sustainable and community focused than ever before. It’s a really nice feeling for everyone involved in the Rio. We feel we have had difficult times but we feel we are on a strong upward trajectory.”

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