August 18th 2022
A thriving community space steeped in history
Rio Cinema on Kingsland High Street in Dalston has been part of the community for over a century.
The independent community cinema shows the very best indie films, hosts special events and one-off screenings, and is open to hire for meetings and events.
The now thriving community space has recently been the subject of restoration works to restore it to its former glory.
Formerly an auctioneer’s shop, it was converted into one of London’s very first cinemas – ‘the Kingsland Palace of Animated Pictures’ – in 1909, by owner and pioneering businesswoman, Clara Ludski.
Due to its success, additional auditorium space was required, and so Clara bought and converted the adjacent properties, opening as the Kingsland Empire in 1915. Its domed tower, elaborate auditorium and life-sized statues meant it was a lot more theatrical than most cinemas of the time.
It was taken over by Capital & Provincial News Theatres in 1936 and refurbished into an art-deco style, with a new auditorium created within the shell of the earlier cinema. Although the space changed hands throughout the coming decades, the exterior and auditorium remained largely unchanged.
The space became the Rio in 1976 and since 1979 has been run as a charity. The building was Grade II listed in 1999.
In more recent years with the cinema struggling financially and the exterior falling into disrepair, the RioGeneration scheme was launched, raising £125,000 for a second screen and for exterior regeneration works.
The Heritage of London Trust (HOLT), an independent heritage charity set up to rescue historic buildings and monuments, has helped to restore the space to its former glory.
Edward Benyon, our Estate Manager and Chairman of the HOLT Patrons Committee, said: "This iconic building has been a familiar sight to the residents of Dalston for decades, and a space that the HOLT felt it was vital to save".
“The cracked, faded and rusted exterior has now been completely transformed, returning it to its former grandeur and we are pleased to have supported such restoration.
“The cracked, faded and rusted exterior has now been completely transformed, returning it to its former grandeur and we are pleased to have supported such restoration.”
The restoration project included replacing cracked signage, lighting and fascia details, fixing a leaking roof canopy, and restoring the plasterwork.
To learn more about HOLT, visit https://www.heritageoflondon.org/.