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rio theatre broadway vancouver

Mukesh Goyal's newly renovated Rio Theatre offers new forms of entertainment at old-fashioned prices.

1660 East Brodway
near Commercial Drive


Rio Theatre brings soccer to silver screen

By Rhiannon Coppin-Contributing writer
Vancouver Courier 05/31/2006

Photo-Dan Toulgoet

Unlike the West Side's Varsity cinema, which met this year with the wrecker's ball, the newly revamped Rio on Broadway is proving that neighbourhood cinemas can do a lot more in 2006 than act as place holders for condominiums.

Mukesh Goyal, the 33-year-old entrepreneur who revived the 458-seat Rio theatre this year for a May 5 grand opening, isn't afraid to try something new. When the 2006 World Cup begins, he'll be showing 28 of the "prime time" matches. From June 9 to July 9, theatre patrons can watch soccer on the big screen, thanks to a an eye-widening 38-foot tall high-definition projection system accompanied by a snappy 20-speaker Dolby surround sound system.

"We're donating staffing and security, the cost of renting the $35,000 projection equipment and two satellite feeds-one for backup -and we're collecting five or six dollars at the door, with the proceeds going to the 2006 FIFA official charity: SOS Children's Villages," said Goyal. "We're hoping to raise tens of thousands of dollars."

The event is an initiative spearheaded by the Vancouver Whitecaps and area merchants to officially recognize and advertise the Drive as Vancouver's destination for getting into the World Cup spirit.

Goyal hopes the exposure from the World Cup games will help put the Rio theatre back on the map. He's already sunk over $2 million into the purchase and renovation of the previously neglected 68-year-old property.

Over the past few decades, 1660 East Broadway was best known (if at all) as the venue for a bowling alley and strings of failed second-run and foreign-language cinemas; almost no one remembers the Rio's glory days as "the showplace of Vancouver."

"People may not know about the Rio theatre because, in many cases, it predates their generation," said Goyal. "Some people know about the Rio from 1938 to the 1950s but, [with] that long gap in between, it's almost like we're starting out as a brand new theatre."

Although he brought in all-new projection and sound equipment in addition to ergonomic seats (which happily transform into loveseats thanks to adjustable arm rests) Goyal wanted to maintain a distinct "retro" feel in the vintage theatre.

The Rio has greeters and ushers, show announcers, full movie curtains, a 110-seat balcony, a true-to-the-original 18-foot red neon and white incandescent exterior sign, and-wait for it-no pre-show slideshow ads.

Goyal has also opted for slightly-retro admission prices.

"Every time I go to the theatre, I don't want to feel like I'm getting ripped off. That's one of the things that I kept in mind in every aspect of this theatre. I don't want to get ripped off at the box office, I don't want to get ripped off on concession, and I definitely don't want to get ripped off on the presentation," he said.

Though he couldn't quite roll back to the 25-cent tickets of 1938, Goyal has pushed the price back to early-'90s benchmarks. Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for youth and $5 for children and seniors. The Rio also offers $5 matinees and $5 Tuesday night shows.

Goyal said he doesn't view the Van East cinema at Seventh Avenue and Commercial Drive as competition. He points out that the two theatres will likely never be showing the same film at the same time.

Goyal is interested in the revitalization of the area around the intersection of Broadway at Commercial, and would like to rent or donate time and space to community groups and residents' associations. He hopes to reopen the theatre's front stage for the occasional live performance.

"I want to operate it as a film theatre, but my ultimate goal is to look at it like a community asset."

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