* Update: Rio chief Oliver Meek will address the Dalston ward forum on Mon 25 April 2016 in the cinema basement at 7pm on “The Rio: back from the brink”. Expect a strong response to some of Loving Dalston’s exposés. The event will also include speakers on plans for Gillett Square and Bradbury Street
THE RIO CINEMA is on the way towards getting a second screen. The cinema’s executive director, Oliver Meek, is talking even of a third screen in addition to the second, which could hold almost 50 people.
Adding to the Rio’s capacity would tackle the problem that has held it back in the face of high-quality competition from Cineworld and its multiscreen Picturehouse theatres, including one in Mare Street E8 1HE.
Meek told Loving Dalston: “I have been working on a regeneration plan for some time.” But the architect had handed him the feasibility study only recently and important details still needed to be tied up.
He added: “I can say the plan involves adding another screen in the basement, possibly a third in future, and reconfiguring our café-bar to make into a vibrant hub for the community.”
Meek also challenged some of the points in Loving Dalston’s previous article on his venue. For example, contrary to the article’s claim that front-of-house staff and cleaners were paid £6.91 an hour, the new minimum at the Rio from 1 April 2016 was £7.20.
He added: “Our offer to pay 10% above this, £7.92 from October 2015, was rejected by the union.”
As for the London living wage, “We cannot commit to this at present as the Rio’s finances have been unstable for the best part of a decade.
“However, we all agree this is what the Rio should be paying its staff and I’m working hard on ways of achieving this.”
The regeneration project would enable it and in the mean time, “industry experts” had carried out a review, of which one “key objective” was to reduce costs and enable us to pay better wages to all staff.
The money owed to staff would would be paid back as soon as the Rio was achieving sufficient profit.
He said “I’m delighted to say that I confirmed with staff on 31 March that they would receive this sum in full in their next pay cheque.”
Meek is upbeat about the Rio’s prospects, saying: “There are huge signs of improvement in the past year, such as a 15% increase in membership, 50% increase in customer spend and more than 300% increase in revenue from hires.
“Despite these improvements… we need to do more to cope with the 5% drop in cinema-going year-on-year.
The cinema had a £30,000 deficit when he took over from previous manager Charles Rubinstein in 2014 and was now “making good progress”.
Told of Meek’s comments, Bectu national official Sofie Mason said: “I am delighted the Rio is now paying back in full the pay cut that it forced on staff in 2013 and that it should have seen as a moral imperative to repay much sooner.
“I am also glad that the lowest-paid staff are now receiving the new minimum wage as required in law. This in no way alters the members’ intention to ballot for industrial action, which was triggered by the board’s unilaterally withdrawing from negotiations by taking all money off the table at the end of January 2016 and refusing to discuss a pay rise for every level of staff, all of whom have not received a pay rise since 2012 and are low paid despite their job titles and responsibilities as managers or senior managers.”
Rio fans will be pleased that talk of a strike, not to mention bankruptcy, is becoming muted. They will get the chance to express their support when the Rio launches a crowdfunder later this year.
David Altheer 070416
* Press Support the Rio Cinema staff to see a supporter’s petition.
* Backstory: Rio panic; Clapton cinema gets crowdfunder cash; New trouble at Dalston cinema; Rio fails to keep out union; Mr Rio quits; Multimillion-pound Hackney giveaway; Rio begs fans for money; Rio first for Corbyn niece; Lost Clapton cinema
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