The owners of East Vancouver’s last independent movie theatre have launched an ambitious crowdfunding campaign to buy their building.
The future of the Rio Theatre, known for screening independent films and hosting quirky stage shows, recently became uncertain when it was revealed the property had been listed for sale.
The theatre still has three years left on its lease, but the property is a potentially attractive development opportunity. The entire area was recently rezoned as a part of the city’s Grandview Woodland Community Plan; the property the Rio sits on is now zoned for a 10-storey residential tower.
Earlier this month, the building’s seller accepted what Rio owner Corrine Lea described as a “creative” offer for the property, but it came with a time limit.
Lea says she now has until April 2 to pull together $3 million for a down payment on the property. She is hoping to raise half from private investors, and the other half through a direct appeal to the public.
WATCH: Rio Theatre launches crowdfunding campaign
According to the theatre’s Indigogo campaign, half of the donations will go to the Rio to help cover the costs of the purchase, while the other half will go to a new non-profit society called The Art House Society. The society invest the money in the property as an equity shareholder.
“Run by a board of industry professionals, this society is currently being created to ensure that funds raised by your donation will remain as a legacy project to help other Vancouver arts and culture organizations in the future,” the campaign said.
Crowdfunding “perks” for donors range from a pair of Rio passes for $25 to a private booking of the entire theatre for $2,000.
For $1,350, a donor can book a Star Wars Stormtrooper-themed burlesque troupe to perform at their event.
The campaign came after a massive public outpouring of support once it was revealed that the land under the Rio could be sold.
More than 22,000 people signed a petition hoping to save the property, and celebrities including Vancouver Film School alumnus and indie film darling Kevin Smith and District 9 director Neill Blomkamp have offered to hold events to help raise the money to save the property.
In an interview with Global News earlier in February, Smith described the theatre as “an amazing space” and said that he would do whatever it takes to keep it open, even if it means “trying to literally hold the doors open with my body, my large body.”
Smith had scheduled a pair of fundraiser shows in March to help the theatre, though those dates are now questionable after the director suffered a “massive” heart attack on Sunday.
The plan to buy the property isn’t the fist time the Rio has faced long odds in a campaign for its survival.
Back in 2012, the theatre won a public battle with liquor regulators after it argued that it needed a liquor license to maintain a profitable business model.
The theatre also held a successful crowdfunding campaign to refurbish its iconic sign in 2014.