The iconic art house Rio Cinema in Dalston first opened its doors in 1909 as the Kingsland Palace and was an instant hit. After a major reconstruction by cult architect F.E. Bromige, the cinema reopened in the late 30s with Art Deco features as the Classic Cinema Dalston. Unlike many other cinemas which had to shut down, the Rio managed to compete successfully against the rise of TV and home entertainment during the 50s. In 1979 an independent cooperative took over and the building reopened its gates as Rio Cinema as a non profit organisation. It has been a strong supporter of independent cinema ever since. Sadly not all of the original architecture has survived however the building itself remains true to its core. The original Art Deco interior got restored in 1997 and it compliments a few artefacts that still remain from its 1930s heydays.
In recent years, the cinema reached out more and more to its community by offering educational tours and screenings for schools and adults, where you can find out about the local history. “As the UK’s oldest community run cinema, we want to take it back to its roots. So our programme here is definitely arthouse but also very political. We show a lot of documentaries and have fundraisers,” explains Andrew Woodyatt, who works for the cinema’s marketing and community events. “We have screenings coming up that raise awareness to save Ridley Road Market and we also do educational screenings for children. Once a month we have Hackney pensioners screenings, who like to come along with their dominos and knitting.” When in 2013 the Rio declared a financial crisis, over £4000 was raised, which helped the cinema get back on track. Now they keep on returning the favour. “We sell great food and drinks for reasonable prices. From cookies to samosas, everything is locally made” says Andrew, not without pride. “That’s why you won’t find any Coke or Cadbury here.” Whether you’re a food or film lover, next time you opt for a movie night you should definitely try something other than your usual cinema snack. A.M.
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