Want to own a piece of the Rio? East Van indie theatre launches equity drive

WATCH: Director Kevin Smith helps save the Rio Theatre

Want to own a piece of East Vancouver’s Rio Theatre? A very tiny piece?

It’s crunch time for the owners of East Vancouver’s iconic Rio movie theatre, who say they’re in the final phase of fundraising to try and permanently save their business.

The property housing the independent theatre at Broadway and Commercial Drive was put up for sale, and has been rezoned for towers of up to 12-storeys.

READ MORE: Rio Theatre holds 30-hour telethon to raise $1M to save the building

That raised concerns the property could be redeveloped, and spurred a drive on the part of the owners and local community to buy the building. In February, they reached an agreement to buy the land from its owner.

WATCH” Supporters holding marathon fundraiser to save Rio Theatre

Supporters holding marathon fundraiser to save Rio Theatre
Supporters holding marathon fundraiser to save Rio Theatre

A crowdfunding campaing netted the backers about half a million dollars, and owner-operator Corrine Lea says they’ve also lined up several larger investors and lined up a $4-million mortgage.

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Now they’re launching a final initiative seeking micro equity investors who would own a small piece of the property itself.

READ MORE: Rio Theatre campaign given 1 more month to buy the building

“To get the final amount needed to buy The Rio, we knew we needed to get more investors, so we wanted to open it up to a wider audience,” Lea told Global News.

“We were approached by so many people that didn’t qualify, like people could only invest maybe $5,000 or $2,000.”

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

The equity campaign is being run through an online platform called FrontFundr, and Lea said it’s a different story than the previous crowdfunding campaing that focused on community goodwill and handed out perks to donors.

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

“This one focuses on investment. We’re looking for people who want to invest in the property of the Rio Theatre. So basically, a real estate investment,” Lea sad.

“Normally investment is kind of limited to the wealthy and so this actually allows people who are a bit lower income, but still have some money to invest in real estate in Vancouver.”

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Lea said finding those small investors is the key to the deal, because the Rio won’t be able to fully secure its mortgage without them.

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The last of the needed funds to keep The Rio going must be in by July 7th, which is the closing date on the purchase of the property.

The campaign to “save the Rio” has attracted plenty of attention, including nods from high-profile film figures like Ryan Reynolds.

READ MORE: Vancouver’s Rio Theatre listed for sale, petition launched to save it

Indie director Kevin Smith at one point pledged to whatever it took to keep it open, even if it means “trying to literally hold the doors open with my body, my large body.”

Smith followed through, holding a fundraising event at the Rio just weeks after suffering a heart attack.

It’s not the first time the Rio has fought to keep its doors open. Back in 2012 it won a battle with B.C. regulators over the right to sell liquor, something it argued it needed to be able to do to remain profitable as a single-screen venue.

The theatre also held a successful crowdfunding campaign to refurbish its iconic sign in 2014.