O er to buy 80-year-old Rio Theatre ac­cepted

StarMetro Vancouver - - Vancouver - Jen St. De­nis

The op­er­a­tor of East Van­cou­ver’s Rio Theatre says her of­fer to buy the build­ing has been ac­cepted, but warned there is still more work to do to se­cure the deal, which has 60 days to fi­nal­ize.

The 80-year old movie theatre was listed for sale ear­lier this month, im­me­di­ately rais­ing fears that the in­de­pen­dent arts venue could be re­placed by con­dos. The Rio shows movies but also hosts com­edy, bur­lesque and other per­for­mances; in 2012, owner Corinne Lea fought for and won the abil­ity to serve al­co­hol dur­ing some events in a bid to keep the movie theatre fi­nan­cially vi­able.

Lea says she was bit­ing her fin­ger­nails Wed­nes­day while she and her busi­ness part­ner waited to hear if their of­fer for the Rio Theatre in east Van­cou­ver would be suc­cess­ful. Lea would only con­firm that the ac­cepted of­fer is above the theatre’s $4.3-mil­lion as­sessed value.

“Our of­fer was ac­cepted — for now. We have it. We did it. But we are so to­tally not done yet!” reads a mes­sage posted Wed­nes­day night on the Rio Theatre’s Twit­ter ac­count. “Part of the rea­son we got where we are now is be­cause of the #East­van #Van­cou­ver #Cd­nfilm love. But hey man — the show must go on and we are not done.”

Pub­lic sup­port for the 80-yearold cin­ema has been over­whelm­ing, from fi­nan­cial do­na­tions to of­fers of part­ner­ship, and Lea says there are plans to cre­ate a non-profit so­ci­ety so donors will own a share of the build­ing. One of Lea’s first de­ci­sions, as her own land­lord, is to dou­ble the Rio’s rent, a move she ad­mits will put a bur­den on the busi­ness, but she says she has to be re­al­is­tic.

Leonard Schein — who for­merly owned the Fifth Av­enue Cin­ema, the Park Cin­ema and The Ridge — acted as in­ter­me­di­ary be­tween Lea and the cin­ema’s own­ers to bro­ker the of­fer. The land the theatre sits on is zoned for a 10-storey build­ing.

A pe­ti­tion launched by the Rio gath­ered over 20,000 sig­na­tures, and the cam­paign drew at­ten­tion out­side of Van­cou­ver: di­rec­tor Kevin Smith and ac­tor Eli­jah Wood, among oth­ers, tweeted their sup­port and Smith of­fered to show his films at the theatre to help raise money.

DAVID P. BALL METRO

Cor­rine Lea, owner of the Rio Theatre, at the East Van­cou­ver cin­ema on Sun­day.

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