‘Save the Rio’ campaign down to final week to finance bid for famed East Van theatre

Director Kevin Smith helps save the Rio Theatre
A little more than a month after suffering a massive heart attack, director Kevin Smith is following through on his promise to help save Vancouver's Rio Theatre. Julia Foy has the story.

It’s all hands on deck among supporters of East Vancouver’s Rio Theatre, as the clock ticks down on an attempt to purchase the property.

On Friday night, indie film director Kevin Smith will appear at a pair of sold-out benefit shows, and supporters kick off a grueling 30-hour webcast telethon on Sunday.

LISTEN: “Save the Rio” campaign enters final stretch

“The hosts are not going to sleep for the entire 30 hours they’re going to be hosting the show,” Rio operator Corinne Lea told CKNW’s The Jon McComb Show.

“It’s basically like every Muppet movie you’ve ever seen, where basically the odds are stacked against them but somehow they’re going to buy the theatre… It’s just less Muppets, that’s all.”

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READ MORE: Vancouver’s Rio Theatre reduces crowdfunding goal to $1M after strong investor response

The “Save the Rio” campaign has been underway since it was revealed earlier this year that the building was up for sale and could face possible redevelopment.

As a part of the city’s Grandview Woodland Community Plan, the entire block of East Broadway was rezoned for 10-storey residential towers.

WATCH: Victory for Rio Theatre but battle not over yet

Victory for Rio Theatre but battle not over yet
Victory for Rio Theatre but battle not over yet

Lea and a group of backers made a bid for the building in February, which was accepted, but they only have until next week to finance the plan.

“We have until April 7 to remove subjects, and in the real estate world that means I have to know that I can get a mortgage, and I can get all my financing organized by then,” she said.

READ MORE: East Vancouver’s Rio Theatre launches crowdfunding campaign to buy building

Backers launched a crowdfunding campaign more than a month ago with an ambitious goal of $1.5 million. They have since scaled that back to $1 million, but have so far only collected about a quarter of that.

But Lea said supporters are still hopeful they can pull together enough to put down a deposit and buy the building.

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READ MORE: East Vancouver’s Rio Theatre lives to screen another film, as offer to buy building accepted

“It’s really a matter of getting that mortgage approved. Our goal is to have $3 million… we do have a group of investors who are interested, so I’ve been working that side of it as well,” she said.

“[But] I know there’s a good 20,000 people out there who support and love the Rio who have not donated yet. We really need more backers — we need everyone who loves the Rio to give a little something.”

The iconic theatre has been a fixture of the neighbourhood since 1938, showing movies for much of that time.

WATCH: Petition launched to save iconic Vancouver theatre

Petition launched to save iconic Vancouver
Petition launched to save iconic Vancouver

The campaign has drawn high-profile support from Hollywood notables like Deadpool star and Vancouver native Ryan Reynolds, who took to Twitter to offer both moral and financial support, and Smith, who pledged to “literally hold the doors open with… my large body.”

READ MORE: Director Kevin Smith says he’ll do whatever he can to save East Vancouver’s Rio Theatre

Indeed, Smith appears to be making good on his promise — the Clerks director suffered a heart attack just a month ago, but will still be taking the stage on Friday at the Rio fundraiser.

As a part of the crowdfunding campaign, supporters have launched a new non-profit called the Art House Society which would invest in the property as an equity shareholder, as well as work to help other Vancouver arts and culture organizations in the future.

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— With files from Niki Reitmayer