Banned: Hackney journalist refused by Rio as it cancels birthday present bought by his wife

Rio Cinema Kingsland High St Dalston London © DavidAltheer [at]
Petty? A birthday gift of Rio membership for the journalist above was summarily retracted
Rio membership 010416 refund on 310816
Unwanted: Rio returns membership fee

Update September 2017: The Rio has unblocked on Twitter the victim of its pettiness, ie, my editor 


A BIRTHDAY GIFT a woman bought for her husband was cancelled months later and without notice by the cinema that offered it for sale.

Rowena Bond paid £30 for an annual subscription in April to the struggling Rio. The Hackney businesswoman said that when she returned in October from several weeks abroad she found that her husband, David Altheer, had been sent a cheque with the brusque comment “customer unhappy with membership”. Both she and Altheer, editor of this news site, were puzzled by the cancellation, although he recalled pointing out during emails with the cinema’s manager, Oliver Meek, that Loving Dalston had been blocked from seeing Rio Tweets.

Altheer said: “I mentioned that my newly acquired membership was inferior in that I was not getting full access to social media — it’s a prime source of Rio programme info. Still, I was taken aback when my comment appeared to be the cause of a wildly disproportionate response.

“I can’t help but wonder whether the management seized on the flimsy Twitter excuse to keep me at a distance, especially when the Rio’s annual general meeting is scheduled to be held in January 2017.

Highland Park whisky party in Brick Lane 241216
Bond: Rio supporter

“Loving Dalston has broken many stories about the cinema’s financial difficulties, its attempts to prevent  union recognition and a subsequent strike — as any local news provider should. It has also reported stories such as one about a play involving a star related to a famous politician that the cinema would surely have welcomed. Neither has my site hesitated to run stories critical of the rival Hackney Picturehouse.”

“The Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union campaigner told me a colleague was also refused Rio membership. This could be linked to comments that have included ‘Union members believe the [Rio] board has become unaccountable, undemocratic and is acting against its stated charitable mission’.”

Bond said: “As a Rio supporter, I’d say the cinema is in no financial position to decline any membership application. I suggested a compromise but the manager dismissed it out of hand. I’m dismayed: it’s not what you’d expect of  a community organisation.”

As if to emphasise the reference to the lack of investment money, the cinema has announced it is resorting to crowdfunding to help to raise more than £200,000 for a screen in the basement, as this site reported in April this year 2016, and another above the main auditorium.

Altheer commented: “When I was a Rio board member in the 1990s I urged the basement be used for screenings and I suggested a way of getting another screen that did not involve altering the building’s listed interior. If I failed to persuade fellow directors, it is pleasing that the objective is at last being attempted.”

Rio Cinema sign seeking, rather than advertising to, customers 170816 © David Altheer
Safety worries about staff clambering up a ladder to signpost programme changes have resulted in this illuminated space being unable to advertise screenings

Hamish Scott 291216 

Backstory: Workers go on strike against Rio; Rio plans a 2nd and maybe 3rd screenCinema manager counters that pay is higher than at other cinemas; Rio fails to keep out unionMr Rio quitsMultimillion-pound Hackney giveawayRio begs fans for money 

All pictures on this page © David.Altheer [at], and all for sale for reproduction. Most photographs are available in bigger formats

Strike: Cineworld staff demonstrate @ Hackney Picturehouse Mare St 181116 © DavidAltheer [at]
Picturehouse protest: Rio is not the only Hackney cinema to be hit by a strike
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