The Rio on Broadway

Rio on Broadway, Snakes on a Plane queue
Snaking queue on a street
Rio Theatre on Broadway, Thu 17 Aug 2006

This photo is the queue outside the Rio Theatre on Broadway for the Thursday midnight advance screening of Snakes on a Plane.

For many who attended the event, it might have been their first time in that theater, as it was for me, despite its central and public-transit accessible location (just across the street plus a few doors down from the Broadway Skytrain station). The Rio is one of an increasingly-rare breed, the single-screen cinema.

Stepping inside feels like stepping inside an old-time theatre.

Dan-D-Pak and Rockstar Energy Drink (and a rubber snake) at the concession stand
Dan-D-Pak and Rockstar at the concession stand
(snacks in a theatre 1)

Popcorn (and a rubber snake) at the concession stand
Popcorn at the concession stand
(snacks in a theatre 2)

Audience in the screening room
Audience in the screening room

For a start, there are no video games, no air hockey tables. There is no room for them anyway–the lobby is cozy, very cozy. Just the queues for the concession stand nearly filled the tiny lobby (never mind the extra-large crowd at the SoaP opening, snapping photos and milling around the live snake handler). That’s the concession stand; just the one, run by the theatre itself–no food court of franchise outlets. The smell of popcorn from the kettle in the maker filled, completely filled, saturated the air.

Yet the theatre is unmistakably modern. In 1938, it’s unlikely the concession stand sold wasabi peas (and other Dan.D.Pak products) and Rockstar Energy Drink (warning: full of Flash; saner alternative: Wikipedia’s Rockstar entry), as it does now. But the screening room is what counts, and the Rio shines. The seats (458 of them) out-Tinseltown
Tinseltown for comfort. The armrests are cupholder-complete and go up and down. There are 20 Dolby surround-sound speakers. There’s a balcony. Obviously, there’s no audio leakage from loud films in adjacent theatres.

And the Rio has a strict policy of no ads.

Repeat: no ads. NO ADS!

This policy extends to slides. The curtain in front of the screen stays closed until it’s time for the trailers. The Rio being a single-screen cinema, even these are few. There were but two before Snakes on a Plane (Trailer Park Boys: The Big Dirty–which was cheered and hooted at–and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning–roundly booed). And then the movie started.

And for all this–the location, the decor, the snacks, the seats, the armrests, the audio, the no ads–the ticket prices are all of $8 for adults, $7 for students, $5 for children and seniors. And Tuesday being the traditional cheap movie night, it’s $5 for everyone on that day.

The Rio on Broadway first opened in 1938 and was a landmark theatre in its day. Over the years, it changed hands and names. Till recently, it was known as the Raja on Broadway, part of the Raja Cinema family, showing Bollywood films. Before that, it was called the Broadway Cinema. The Rio returned as the Rio a few months ago this year, with a grand opening on Friday 5 May 2006, after being acquired and refurbished by local businessman Mukesh “Mike” Goyal. Though it shows first-run Hollywood movies now, it’s no Cineplex Odeon nor Famous Players nor Silvercity theatre (they’re all brands of the same company, Cineplex Entertainment LP, anyway, you know)–Mr Goyal is the independent owner.

In a 4 May 2006 Georgia Straight interview, Mr Goyal declared his intention to set the Rio apart. This will be very glitzy. It’s reminiscent of the golden era of the single-screen theatre, he said. He clearly stated the no preshow advertising decision, and on the topic of ticket prices: Every person I came across, I asked, What do you not like about going to the movies? They said the admission prices…. Expect the admission to remain low. They’re no 1938 prices, but such a deal compared to most other cinemas.

While the Straight article ends with Mr Goyal speaking of his being helped tremendously by owners of other local independent single-screen theatres (mentioned by name are Dave Fairleigh of the Hollywood Theatre and Leonard Schein of Festival Cinemas, whose theatres include the much-loved Park and Ridge Theatres), ultimately, it’s patronage that counts and it’s what will either keep fine old cinemas like the Rio alive or leave them no choice but to close or sell out.

Go to one of your city’s single-screen theatres when you can. A night out at the movies can be–should be–more than just watching a film.

2 Comments so far

  1. Rob Cottingham (unregistered) on August 21st, 2006 @ 10:45 am

    Eight bucks for adults, five for kids, and five for everyone during matinees? Plus no ads? I’m there.

    Thanks for this, Keith.

  2. Ryan Cousineau (unregistered) on August 21st, 2006 @ 3:24 pm

    Snakes on a snack!

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