Good news for Hackney: Rio Cinema is not closing down

Rio Cinema stays open

Rio Cinema stays open

Rumours of the imminent demise of the Rio Cinema have been exaggerated, according to General manager, Charles Rubenstein.

‘’Whatever the impression given by an article in last week’s Hackney Gazette, the subsequent on-line stories and the overwhelming outbreak of expressions of horror and support in the social media over the last few days (for which we are of course sincerely grateful) we can happily say that the Rio is not in any immediate danger of closing down.’’  Rubenstein said.

Nonetheless, he added that the cinema needs to improve its financial situation over the coming months not only to maintain its distinctive programming but also to improve and add to what they already offer and begin a programme of renovations to the building.

“We are proud of our multi-cultural credentials that are reflected in both our films and our audience. We are open 364 days a year, presenting upwards of 1,300 screenings”, he said.

However, he added:  ‘’Running a fully independent stand-alone cinema is a costly business and if you can afford to make a donation – whether large or small – it will be very welcome and will certainly be put to very good use.’’

According to Rubenstein, the Rio has received nearly £4,000 so far since the Gazette story appeared, and many people are also becoming Friends of the cinema, with the membership currently running at approximately three times the normal level.

Alongside a handful of other London independents (Barbican Cinema, Riverside Studios and the Tricycle Cinema), the Rio is responsible for its own programming and does not utilise the services of an external booking agency. Its films are ranging from the soon to be released big budget Hollywood ‘experimental film’ GRAVITY in mind boggling 3D to much more specialised smaller releases such as the brilliant Belgian drama ‘The Broken Circle Breakdown, starting this week.

This means that it can be very responsive to the interests of its local audience and community.

An example of this is the London Turkish Film Festival which was started by the Rio in 1994 and has subsequently become an independent entity which continues to use the Rio as its principal venue.

The Rio is also one of the few cinemas that still runs Saturday late night shows featuring a host of offbeat cult films sometimes in association  with external programming partners such as Cigarette Burns Cinema or the Fringe! Gay Film Fest.

Lucy Aronica, from the British Film Institute, said: “The BFI wants to see a thriving independent exhibition sector across the UK as many of the independent venues play an important role in broadening the range of films on offer to audiences and in stimulating film culture at a local level.’’

Josh Saco from Cigarette Burns Cinema, one of the programming companies that work with Rio, said :

‘’I love the Rio, I love the spirit of the place. It’s truer than many of the other cinemas I have been to, it’s got a vibe and a strange dominating, majestic self belief, built into it’s walls. But he thinks that there is more to the picture:

‘’Ultimately, it’s down to people engaging with actual cinema. People don’t see the cinema as an experience in and of itself, they see it as another way to watch a movie . So they would prefer to go the VOD/Netflix/Lovefilm route rather than take a night and go to the cinema, locking yourself in front of a massive screen without the chance to make a cup of tea, or fiddle about on your phone, you see the film entirely differently. ‘’

Saco is doing a talk on the subject later this month.

“The Rio’s problem is that they are a single screen cinema”, he said, “This isn’t something that should be seen as a bad thing or a weakness, however. In reality, it’s a strength, if used correctly.”

Charles Rubenstein appears to be confident: ‘’The Hackney Gazette story painted an unduly grim picture and although the Rio needs to significantly improve its financial performance over the coming months, there is every reason to think that the Rio will be around for a long time.’’

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