News / Vancouver

'We are not done:' Offer to buy East Vancouver's Rio Theatre accepted

After the building was listed for sale, there were fears Vancouver could lose another independent arts venue to condos

Corrine Lea, owner of the Rio Theatre, at the East Vancouver business and 80-year-old cinema on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018 after news the building's for sale by her landlord went public.

David P. Ball / Metro

Corrine Lea, owner of the Rio Theatre, at the East Vancouver business and 80-year-old cinema on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018 after news the building's for sale by her landlord went public.

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-year-old 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.

With files from The Canadian Press

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