Way to Covid: Dalston’s Rio cinema posts a pandemic profit

DESPERATELY NEEDED GOOD NEWS for Dalston’s pandemic-era cultural scene as the Rio cinema turns a profit despite being Covid-closed since late March this year 2020.

The announcement was made at an extraordinary general meeting for Rio members — subscribers — on a hot Sunday morning this month August 2020. The EGM was organised by a small number of “Guardian trustees”, as they called themselves, after a secretive group’s coup displaced the trustee directors. 

Nominations to a new board of trustee directors — who are unpaid — were sought and received from the meeting.

Main pic: the cinema’s EGM. Chief executive Oliver Meek is busy at left — lighting and sound have often been problems at Rio meetings

The on-paper profit, just over £50,000, stems from a combination of grants from the London Assembly, the British Film Institute and Hackney council and a crowdfunding campaign which raised almost £17,000. The Tory government’s socialistic furlough scheme is also likely to have played a role by reducing staff costs.

It is now the third year in a row that the cinema has achieved a cash surplus, after profits of more than £6,000 in 2018-2019 and £37,000 in 2017-2018.

The profit, though cheering for the Save The Rio campaign, does not indicate an upwards trend, executive director Oliver Meek admitted to the EGM. And since the cinema’s reopening on 7 August 2020, reality is biting as pandemic-caused auditorium and foyer space restrictions deplete ticket and food takings.

The people behind the Guardian trustees had gone online to attack the board of trustees, alleging it lacked diversity and was misleading members about the Rio’s finances during the lockdown. They claimed the board was using the pandemic as an excuse to cut costs and in effect privatise programming.

The board denied all the protesters’ claims then quit en masse, as Loving Dalston was the first to report.

After several tumultuous years in which workers fought a resistant board for union recognition, leading to staff strikes, Hackney cinema-goers will be heartened to see the Rio management seeking ways through the virus crisis. They will hope the new board is equally enterprising.

Clara Murray 190820

* Press Rio crowdfunder if you want to donate to help the Kingsland High Street movie house.

* Backstory: Rebels oust Rio boardRevolutionaries tell cinema board to quitRio fails to keep out union out; Hackney group makes theatre work for the young; Rio workers strike; Union reports Rio to adjudicator; Boutique cinema opens in Clapton; Multimillion-pound truth about PicturehouseMr Rio quits; How Hackney Picturehouse got its premises for a penny 

* The “Guardian trustees” referred to in the article are nothing to do with anti-squatting firms nor with the legendary newspaper and its controversial origins. If you want to help the anti-boardists, download the forms via this link, then email it to saveourrio@gmail.com. If you want to support the other side, go to the Rio site or write to the board at the Rio, 107 Kingsland High Street, Dalston E8 2PB

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