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1 9. CASE STUDY 5: THE RIO CINEMA, DALSTON 9.1 Overview of cinema The Rio cinema is located in Dalston, Hackney. The Rio is a purpose-built cinema dating from 1915 and is an English Heritage Grade II listed building, with 1930s art deco facade. It is a one-screen cinema with 402 seats, offering a mainly specialised programme, although in recent years, also showing an increasing number of popular mainstream films. The Rio sells about 70,000 - 80,000 tickets every year. It is the only cinema in Hackney, although there are a number of both mainstream and more specialised cinemas within the neighbouring wards of Islington and Tower Hamlets. There are 23 members of staff on the pay roll, mostly part-time, and the cinema is supported by a voluntary board of 13 directors, who help with marketing, finance and other operational matters. 9.2 The Social, Cultural and Environmental Impact of the Rio Cinema 9.2.1 Who visits the cinema? Clearly, one of the main groups of people on whom the cinema has a direct impact is the Rio audience. The cinema sells about 70,000 - 80,000 tickets a year. The Rio offers a wide-ranging programme with a mix of mainstream and specialised films, designed to appeal to a variety of audiences, both local and London-wide. One of the Rio's stated aims is "to bring the best of world cinema to north and east London", and analysis of the Rio's main annual programme (excluding the annual Turkish and Kurdish festivals) indicates that about a third of the films screened at the Rio are foreign language films. Table 9.2.1 Analysis of Rio main non-festival programme 2002 - 2003 % of screenings Specialised films 55 Mainstream films 45 English language 65 Foreign language 35 Certificate U 18 2 PG 9 12 / 12A 19 15 40 18 14 Analysis of ticket sales in the financial year 2003-04 reveals the following top ten box office grosses: a list which includes slightly more specialised than mainstream films: Lost in Translation, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The Matrix Reloaded, Kill Bill Vol.1, Goodbye Lenin, Love Actually, Jungle Book 2, Young Adam, Swimming Pool and Lilya 4-Ever. The core target audience is described by the cinema as quite young, well educated and well-informed about film. Although no audience survey was conducted as part of this study, the Rio has itself conducted audience surveys in the past, and it is clear that the audience profile varies depending on the type of film being screened. The specialised programme tends to attract a more London-wide audience, while the more mainstream films, and those designed to appeal to children and young people, tend to pull in a mainly local Hackney audience. The following table compares the demographic profile of the Rio audience (as indicated by the cinema's own past audience surveys) with that of the general population of Hackney (as recorded in the 2001 Census). These comparisons should be treated with some caution as some of the questions, particularly the ethnic group question, were asked in different ways in the different surveys. However, it would appear that the Rio's audience was predominantly in the 25-44 age group, was made up of slightly more men than women and was considerably less ethnically diverse than the Hackney population as a whole. In particular, while a quarter of Hackney residents were Black or Black British, this was true for only 5% of the Rio audience. Asian or Asian British audience members were also under-represented (2% compared with 9% of Hackney residents). According to a 2002 Rio audience survey, children and young people (under 24) accounted for only 11% of the audience, compared to 33% of the Hackney population. This may be a reflection of the survey methodology (it is unclear whether there was a lower age limit for the survey, and precisely how audience members were counted), but it is also likely to be partly due to the Rio's programme: of the 1300 screenings per year, only about a quarter were certificate PG or U, a considerably lower proportion than the more 3 mainstream case study cinemas in this report (e.g. more than half the screenings at the Lonsdale in Annan were of PG or U certificated films). The Rio audience were also much more likely than the Hackney population as a whole to be employed or self-employed (81% compared with 51%), and less likely to be retired, looking after home or family, or permanently sick or disabled. Table 9.2.2 Demographic profile of Rio audience, and local Hackney population Rio audience1 Hackney population2 Male 54% 48% Female 46% 52% Under 16 3% 23% 16-24 9% 13% 25-34 43% 21% 35-44 30% 17% 45-54 11% 10% 55-64 2% 7% 65 or older 2% 9% White 87% 59% - of which White Irish 3% 3% - Kurdish * 9% n/a - Turkish * 1% n/a - Other * 15% n/a Mixed 5% 4% Asian or Asian British 2% 9% - Indian 1% 4% - Pakistani - 1% - Bangladeshi - 3% - other Asian - 1% Black or Black British 5% 25% - Caribbean 1% 10% - African 2% 12% - other Black 2% 2% Chinese or other ethnic 1% 3% 1 Source: Rio Audience Survey 2002 2 Source: Census 2001 4 group Employed or self-employed 81% 51% Unemployed 4% 7% Students 10% 13% Retired 3% 8% Looking after home / family 1% 8% Permanently sick or disabled 1% 7% Other economically inactive - 7% * These classifications used in the Rio audience surveys, but not government surveys; of the 20% classified as "other" in the Rio survey, 15% have been assumed to be white for the purposes of this comparison and 5% mixed, based on an analysis of the summarised hand-written self-defining descriptions given It would appear from these figures, and from discussions with the cinema management, regular Rio visitors, and other local residents, that the cinema tends to attract a particular type of cinema-goer, rather than a representative sample of the local population. The possible reasons for this are discussed in more detail later in this report. However, there are a number of ways in which the Rio seeks to engage with particular sub-groups of the local population. Turkish and Kurdish communities There are strong Turkish and Kurdish communities in Hackney, and the Rio has established very good links with both communities. Two key annual events for the Rio are the Turkish Film Festival, now in its 12th year, and the Kurdish Film Festival, now in its third year. Both these festivals are organised in partnership with the local Turkish and Kurdish communities. The festivals are held over a 1-2 week period at the Rio, and include screenings of feature films, documentaries and shorts by Turkish and Kurdish film makers or about Turkish / Kurdish issues. The Kurdish festival is the only such festival in Europe. The aim of both festivals is to raise the profile of Turkish and Kurdish film makers, and to provide an outlet for the screening of their work. Both festivals also include Q&A sessions and panel discussions with the film makers, and workshops for aspiring young film makers. And there are additional events tied in with the local Turkish and Kurdish communities, such as photography exhibitions, Turkish book sales, receptions at local Turkish restaurants and so on. 5 The festivals are very well supported locally - the Turkish festival in 2003 sold more than 2,700 tickets, and the 2004 Kurdish festival sold over 3,500 tickets. Although no systematic survey has been conducted of the demographic profile of these audiences, it has been estimated that 80%-90% of them tend to be of Turkish or Kurdish background, and many of these come from Hackney, Haringey and Islington, which have one of the main concentrations of Turkish and Kurdish population in London. In addition to the festival, the Rio also plays host to a Turkish-speaking Youth Video Training project, run by a local organisation called Balik Arts. The work of course members is screened as part of the Turkish Film Festival. Black communities According to recent Census figures, about a quarter of the population of Hackney are Black or Black British, and the Rio has been involved in various events and collaborations designed to appeal to and promote the work and issues of this section of the community. For instance, the Rio has worked with Kush Promotions to organise screenings as part of Black History Month. It has also been one of the venues in the past for the Black Filmmakers International Film Festival. The Rio has also worked with an organisation called the 100 Black Men of London, which is a London-wide mentoring group, working with children of African origin, and seeking to educate people about Black history. The group, attracted by the Rio's commitment to working directly with the community, has held events at the Rio involving a screening of films about Black history, preceded by an introductory talk to young people and their parents, and followed by a Q&A session and distribution of fact sheets about the film or relevant issues. There have been several such events at the Rio, attracting audiences of up to 300 people. Between 2001 and 2003, Kush Promotions also used the Rio's basement to run 'A Bridge to Normal Living', a digital video production training course for disadvantaged socially excluded young people, with problems with substance abuse and offending. The course was open to young people (aged 16-30) from all ethnic backgrounds, with an emphasis on recruiting those of an African-Caribbean descent. The Rio was also one of the subsidiary venues for the Raindance East film festival in April 2004 (the main venue was the Genesis Cinema in Mile End). The festival, in its fourth year, was led by Raindance, in conjunction with the London Borough of Tower Hamlets Film Office, and the London borough of Hackney. The Rio screened a range of work by local Hackney film-makers 6 and young people, independent features with connections to local communities from various minority ethnic backgrounds, and a number of music documentaries about hip-hop, rap and afro-punk. The music documentaries, in particular, attracted a good audience from the local black community. Another example of the Rio’s efforts to address this community group is a series of four evening workshops on Black Visual Artists, taking place in March 2005. Children and families The Rio runs a weekly Saturday Morning Children's Picture Club, sponsored by the local paper, as well as Playcentre Matinees on a Tuesday and School Holiday Matinees of films to appeal to children. Recently some additional funding from Hackney Council has enabled the Rio to reduce ticket prices for these screenings to over half the original price, which has seen admissions to these events double. The cinema has also recently launched a weekly Parents and Babies Club, which is proving very popular and has over 300 members. The purpose of the club is to enable parents with babies under one year old to visit the cinema regularly without having to find a baby sitter or worry about their babies causing a disturbance. As part of a new ‘Spring into Film’ initiative launched in January 2005 and supported by Hackney Council, the Rio organised a four day Shadow Puppets Filmmaking Workshop for local children. The workshop was a great success, with demand for places far exceeding the 12 places available. The cinema hopes to run similar workshops in the summer. Older people The Rio also screens a monthly Classic Matinee aimed at older people, with free admission for the over 60’s. The Rio has also been the venue for film screenings as part of the Hackney Festival for Older People, organised by Hackney Council. These annual screenings have been very well attended in the past, but the audience numbers have decreased since the Council withdrew funding for transport to and from the cinema, and for refreshments and post-film entertainment. However, the screening is still attended by about 100 people aged between 50 and 90, from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. 7 Students Other groups using the Rio's resources include students attending the annual year-long Rio Tape Slide course, jointly organised with the Community College Shoreditch. The course leads to a qualification accredited by the London Open College Network. About ten students per year attend the course, mostly in their twenties and thirties, and mostly Hackney residents. The Rio was also involved for the first time, with Film Education, in National Schools Film Week in October 2004, presenting free screenings for both secondary and primary school pupils. It is also approached regularly by various local primary schools, playschemes and youth groups to organise end-of-term screenings for their children. The cinema manager is very keen to expand the educational work of the cinema, but had felt unable to make progress on this, with the current level of staffing. Hackney Council also acknowledged the huge untapped potential for the Rio to work with local schools, and has recently provided funding to enable the Rio to offer free screening events to local schools. The manager reports a high level of interest from local schools so far. The funding is only for a 3-month trial, and for the Rio to continue this level of educational activities may require the appointment of an outreach and education post. The cinema also tries to accommodate requests from film-making students to use the cinema as a location for filming or photography shoots. Other community groups The Rio, as a community cinema, has a stated policy of encouraging community access and local involvement, and invites local groups or organisations to use the cinema for educational, campaigning or fund- raising purposes. Recent examples of the cinema being used in this way include a special film show organised by the Learning Difficulties Service in Hackney; a Sunday morning spiritual event in collaboration with Astanga Yoga London; a Kung Fu cult book launch event with a special screening of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and a linked dim-sum reception in the nearby Shanghai restaurant, the staging of a children's play by a local Turkish group, and performances by Emashi, a local African dance group. 9.2.2 What impact is the cinema having on its visitors, and the wider community? 8 In the previous section, we described the type of people that visit the Rio. In this section, we explore the type of impact that the Rio has on its visitors, and the local community as a whole. This section draws on views expressed by regular audience members, local residents, and representatives from the local press and council. 188.8.131.52 Access to film, and increased film knowledge Local access to a varied programme of films As the only cinema in Hackney, local residents see the Rio as an important local resource, enabling them to see films without having to travel further afield. Although there are other cinemas within a few miles, travel across London to these for Dalston residents could be time-consuming. Also, the Rio is seen as offering access to a unique programme of films - a varied mixture of mainstream and specialised films, with a good variety of films during any one week. In a focus group of local Rio audience members, this programme variety was greatly welcomed, and was compared favourably both with the nearby multiplexes which offered only mainstream films, and with other local independent cinemas that tended to show a single film all week. The following quotes were typical of the discussion: "I can walk here and home in 15 minutes" "I like the diverse range of films that are shown here" "My partner and I come to quite a range of films here, from blockbusters to quite a good selection of foreign films, which are not as easy to find elsewhere" "I will ring up Screen on the Green and it might be the same film all week. At least here, you have various films throughout the week" Regular Rio visitors The central location of the cinema on Kingsland High Street made it very accessible to people living or working in Dalston and neighbouring areas. The cinema is accessible by numerous bus routes, Dalston Kingsland train 9 station is a five minute walk away, and Highbury and Islington tube is a short bus ride away. However in other ways, the Rio's location in Dalston - a rather run-down area, with a reputation for high crime levels - is likely to be keeping some people away from the cinema, particularly those living further afield. In focus groups with regular Rio visitors and local residents, it became clear that some people were put off by the reputation of the area, the transport links and also by the fact that there were very few nice bars or pubs near the cinema. While some people liked to combine shopping trips with a trip to the cinema, the shopping facilities in Dalston were not seen as conducive to this. Clearly there is little the Rio itself is able to do about regenerating the area, but it is a challenge that the cinema and other local businesses must face. In our interviews with some of the cinema's local suppliers, several expressed a desire to move their businesses into more prosperous areas, and there was a shared scepticism about the regeneration plans for Dalston. The following quotes were typical: "They are pissing in the wind. There is no point trying to make a silk purse from a pig's ear" "They don't do much. They do the same thing lots of times, and it doesn't make a lot of difference" Some local residents, however, were more optimistic: "If it can hold on for a couple more years, then I think it will be OK. I think this area is really coming up, and there are new developments everywhere, so things are changing" Drawing in local audiences In recent years, the balance of the Rio programme had changed slightly, and there was some frustration among regular Rio visitors at the increasing number of mainstream film screenings. However, all recognised the need for the Rio to show mainstream films in order to attract local audiences, and several welcomed the chance to see mainstream films in a non-multiplex setting, or after the first run. 10 In a focus group of local residents, who were not regular Rio visitors, some were pleased to see the increasing tendency towards mainstream films, and felt that this was a good way of attracting new people to the Rio, who would then be introduced to the other types of films on offer at the Rio. This group felt that the Rio has had a rather specialised image, only catering to those who were interested in "intellectual", out-of the-ordinary and subtitled films; and despite the increasing number of mainstream films being screened, this specialised image endures for many, and puts people off. As one local resident put it: "No matter how good it looks on the outside, if the films don't appeal to certain people, they are not going to come" In both the audience and local resident groups, the Rio's marketing and advertising strategy was highlighted as a possible problem. In the audience group, a number of people felt that it would be useful to have more notice of what films were showing, so that they could make plans around the programme. This was particularly a problem when the Rio's brochure was published late, and they felt that perhaps more use could be made of the website for more timely updates. In the resident group, several people mentioned that they were often not aware of what was showing at the Rio. Various suggestions were made: more prominent advertising on the outside of the building about current and forthcoming films, and wider and more frequent distribution of brochures. Although these were always available to pick up from the cinema, people in this group said that they rarely saw them displayed elsewhere. The frontage of the cinema was also felt by some to be a bit daunting, giving them impression of being rather "closed off and private". In reviewing its recent articles, the Hackney Gazette realised that there had not been a huge amount of coverage of the cinema, beyond the weekly listings. The Gazette suggested that the Rio might consider doing more to publicise particular events, and being more pro-active about issuing press releases. 11 This study highlighted a number of particular problems with the Rio's marketing and advertising strategy related to the local Turkish and Kurdish communities. These are discussed further later in this section. Access to world cinema: learning about other cultures The screening of so many films from different countries was welcomed, not only for the variety it offered the audience, but also as a way of learning about different societies and ways of life. As one Rio visitor put it: "The Rio is good if you want to learn something about other cultures" However, some suggested that the way in which some foreign films were advertised by the Rio could be improved in order to attract bigger, more diverse audiences. For instance, although the Turkish and Kurdish film festivals were a great success within the Turkish and Kurdish communities, the regular Rio audience from outside these communities felt rather poorly informed about the films that were on offer: "I remember getting the brochure for the Kurdish film festival, and they didn't always give you a good idea why you would want to go and see that film" "Synopsis of the story is not always relevant to you. Maybe it would be better to put it into context as to how it fits into Kurdish cinema or culture... synopsis of the story line alone does not necessarily make you want to go to the movie" Access to film for particular local minority ethnic groups The various festivals and special screenings were welcomed as a very positive way of engaging the local minority ethnic communities. For instance, in an interview with one of the organisers of the Kurdish festival, he felt strongly that the festival was giving the East London Kurdish community access to films that would not otherwise have an outlet in this country. He pointed out that the festival would have been impossible without the Rio's agreement not to charge an up-front fee for obtaining the films, and hiring the cinema. The fee is taken out of the ticket sale income. The Rio's practical help with organising the festival, and raising funding has also been invaluable. The festival representative also felt that the festival was a service to the community, in that it drew people into the cinema who would not normally 12 attend. He felt sure that some people who had attended the Rio for the first time at the festival had gone on to become regular Rio audience members. Feedback was also extremely positive following the 100 Black Men of London screenings for young people and their parents. The following comments were received after screenings of films about Rosa Parks and Marcus Garvey, both important figures in Black history: "This is an ideal opportunity to teach our children about someone so prominent in our history" "I found the showing of Rosa Parks amazing. Not just the film, but being in a room with black women and men and most importantly children" "Can I just say how much we enjoyed the screening on Sunday. We all felt that we came away better informed and enlightened, and proud to be part of such a rich and diverse community - thank you" While these festivals and special events were welcomed, both audience and local residents felt that more could be done within the main year-long film programme to engage the various ethnic groups living in Hackney: including more films which would appeal directly to the sizeable black population in Dalston, the local Vietnamese and Chinese communities, and the Turkish and Kurdish communities. Avrupa, a local Turkish newspaper, carried adverts for the Turkish and Kurdish film festivals, and for any Turkish films showing at the Rio during the rest of the year. However, the editor felt that the Rio could do more to promote itself to the Turkish community, both through better advertising and press releases, and through showing more Turkish films outside the festival season. This was a view repeated by several people interviewed as part of this study. One of the members of the Kurdish Film Festival committee, for example, applauded the Rio for establishing good links with Kurdish residents and businesses during the festival, but felt that for the rest of the year, the Rio was "rather aloof" from the Kurdish community. He would like to see at least one person from the Kurdish community on the Rio's management committee. He felt that this would lead to a more year-round attitude 13 towards Kurdish film. Rather than limiting the screenings to the festival, he would like to see the occasional Kurdish film being screened at other times of the year, and feels that there would be a year-round audience for these screenings. Although the Rio does have a diverse programme, the communication about this programme is sometimes poor, and is not reaching the main part of the Kurdish community. There is scope for better targeting of the advertising and film promotion, and local Kurdish organisations would be happy to help with this. Similar points were raised by people associated with the Turkish festival: they wanted to see regular screenings of Turkish films throughout the year, not just during the festival; and better placed advertising for Turkish films - for example, in the local restaurants and kebab shops. The organiser of the Turkish festival felt strongly that if the Parents and Babies Club screenings were marketed in the local Turkish language newspapers, and during the Turkish festival, they would be very popular with Turkish mothers. It was felt that an improved marketing strategy would increase the chance of generating new regular audience members from the festival newcomers. The cinema in Wood Green was cited by a number of people as more effectively targeting the Turkish community throughout the year. The limited engagement with the Rio, outside special events, of the black community in Hackney was discussed with the director of Kush Promotions, who use the Rio's basement to run 'A Bridge to Normal Living', a digital video production training course for socially disadvantaged young people. Kush Promotions, one of several linked companies, exhibits the work of black filmmakers, runs training courses, and occasionally distributes films. Several years ago, the director had worked with the Rio to screen monthly Kush Film Club screenings, highlighting the work of black filmmakers. But these screenings had been programmed in marginal late-night slots, and Kush had decided to move the screenings to the Prince Charles Cinema in central London, which was able to offer a more mainstream 8pm slot. The director of Kush Promotions felt that the main programme of films at the Rio did not really appeal to the black community, and that the Rio needed to look more carefully at both its programming and marketing strategies, in order to attract more audience from the local black community. Access to film for children and families 14 In particular, the films for children were a big draw for local residents, and offered families a valuable opportunity to see films in a friendly, local environment. "I also come on a Saturday morning to the Picture Club, which is brilliant with my two children....they love it, and they come week after week. It's a really nice atmosphere, and they feel a strong sense of loyalty to the cinema" The Parents and Babies Club was also proving very popular, enabling parents, who were keen movie-goers before becoming parents, to continue enjoying trips to the cinema, without having to find a babysitter or worrying about their baby disturbing other cinema-goers. As one parent was recently quoted in the Hackney Gazette: "I thought I'd have to wait for the latest films to come out on DVD before I saw them, but now I go to the cinema more than my partner". These weekly screenings were also a social occasion for new parents, and had led to new friendships being made. While the Rio was doing well with young children, and parents of young babies, the cinema was not engaging so well with older children and young people. This issue was discussed with various participants in the study, and it was felt that for teenagers and young adults, the Rio was seen as rather old-fashioned, and although it screened mainstream films as well as specialised films, it was felt that the modern multiplexes were more of a draw for this age group for various reasons - the bigger screens and sound, the opportunity to choose from a number of mainstream films on any one day, cafés in which to "hang out", and the food on offer at the cinema: "If I go with a group of friends, the food is a big factor - they all want the whole experience. The hotdogs, the popcorn, the massive drinks.... Cakes [at the Rio] don't attract the junk food loving youth of today" Ticket price was also an issue for young people: one young local resident explained that although she was interested in going to the cinema, most of her contemporaries were not, and that many preferred to hire videos because it was cheaper. 15 Access to film for older people An interview was conducted with one of the organisers of the Hackney Festival for Older People. She had been heavily involved in setting up the annual Rio screenings, and had received a lot of very positive feedback from the audience at these events. In the first of these screenings, it became clear that for many of the older people in the audience, who came from across the borough of Hackney, it was the first time they had been to the cinema for 20 or 30 years. Lack of independence or mobility, lack of money, poor access to transport, no partners or friends to go with, and also fears about the safety of going out (particularly at night time) were common barriers to people visiting the cinema. A significant proportion of the audience at these screenings were living in old people's homes, or sheltered housing, so were often reliant on others to organise outings for them. These special screenings, initially wholly funded by Hackney Council, had provided them with an opportunity to see films in a safe environment, with no worries about transport to and from the cinema, or paying for the tickets. The events, at which refreshments were served and entertainment provided were seen as a welcome social occasion for older people of all ethnic backgrounds, and a positive way of increasing the quality of life of older people in Hackney. Attendance at these events had dropped off since the Council withdrew some of the funding. A small charge is now made for each ticket, transport now has to be organised by the various nursing homes and other community organisations involved, and refreshments are no longer provided. However, the Rio reduces the prices of its own refreshments for these screenings to keep costs manageable for the audience and helpers. New funding arrangements are currently being explored, in order to keep these events running. Low ticket prices Another way of ensuring that films were accessible to as many local residents as possible was to keep ticket prices low. Reduced admission was offered to old age pensioners, students, under 18s and the unemployed. There were further reductions for Monday evening screenings, and weekday matinees, and for the Saturday Morning Picture Club and Playcentre Matinees. 16 For students, the discounts offered by other London cinemas meant that the Rio ticket price was much the same as, and sometimes slightly more than, other cinemas. However, for other Rio regulars, value for money certainly appeared to be one of the reasons behind visitors' choice of the Rio, particularly for specialised films and festivals. "I think the prices are an incentive to come here - it will save you money by not going to the West End... you'll wait until it's on at the Rio and cheaper" "You can get discounts and passes for the festivals... it's very good value" The price of the food at the Rio was also thought to be much more reasonable than the price of food at multiplexes: "You go to the multiplex and you have to buy a bath of popcorn and a huge thing of drink, and it's so expensive... it's almost the same price again as the ticket" The Rio also offered complementary and reduced admission agreements to members of various local community organisations, such as Hackney Independent Living Team Housing Association, Hackney Women's Aid and the St Mungo's Association. In an interview with Hackney Council, they felt that a key barrier to cinema attendance for many local residents was cost, and in December 2005 additional funding was given to the Rio to further subsidise reduced ticket prices for the Saturday Morning Picture Club, Playcentre Matinees, and Classic Matinees. However the Council still felt that the cinema could do more to address this problem, perhaps by approaching charitable trusts to fund ticket concessions. Access to film for people with disabilities The Rio's facilities have been adapted in various ways in to order to accommodate people with disabilities. The cinema offers wheelchair-friendly access to the stalls, with three wheelchair spaces, and removable seats to allow up to eight wheelchair users. The toilet also has wheelchair access. There are automatic doors at the entrance and level access to the cinema, and an infra red assisted hearing system for people with hearing aids. 17 184.108.40.206 Opportunity to see films in a "traditional" cinema setting Another valuable service that the Rio was felt to be providing was the opportunity to see films in a "traditional" local cinema setting. There was a lot of discussion in the audience focus group about the experience of seeing a film at the Rio, compared with the experience of visiting the local multiplex cinemas. The regular Rio visitors valued the friendly, traditional atmosphere of the Rio, and the traditional architecture of the building, with its Art Deco facade and theatre circle seating. The following quotes were typical: "I think the Rio has a very nice personality. It's quite cuddly. It has this nice building with the Art Deco feel " "It's a community as well; you bump into people you know" "It seems much more of a personal theatre, a much more personal space" "It's smaller, different, it has a bit of history to it - I like that" "It's comfortable, and I like the ambience of the decor before all the lights go off" "In the multiplex, it's just not the same sort of experience at all. It's very big and impersonal" Regular Rio visitors For some regular visitors, part of the appeal of the Rio over the more commercial cinemas was the type of audience it attracted, described approvingly by one regular as: "middle aged intellectuals, instead of a young 'want to hang out' audience" Others agreed: 18 "I think that is what independent cinema is all about... it's not for the young people to hang out. It's to appreciate the movie" "It is a bit like the difference between going to see a play in the West End, and going to the National Theatre. I would choose to go and see something in the NT because of the sensibility of the audience, because the audience is more focused. You go to the West End theatre, and you have people talking, you have tourists, and it's a different sensibility" But even for the committed Rio regulars, multiplexes were sometimes the cinema of choice. For watching big action movies, the multiplexes' bigger screens and higher sound quality were attractive (although the Rio's recently refurbished sound system was much appreciated by the audience, and compared favourably with other small cinemas). The greater viewing opportunities available on any one day at multiple screen cinemas were also a draw, and for younger people, the food available at the multiplexes was a more attractive option than the Rio refreshments. On the other hand, for many older Rio regulars, the fact that the refreshments on offer were not the standard, expensive multiplex fare was enthusiastically welcomed. People of all ages, however, were united in their desire for the Rio to have a bar at which to meet before and after the film. It was felt that this would draw in some more people, who might currently choose to go to other cinemas which did have such facilities. Space and funding were recognised as barriers to this kind of expansion however. 220.127.116.11 Opportunity to learn new skills or knowledge Tape-slide course The long-running tape slide course at the Rio is the only such course on offer in London, and is unique in its direct association with a working cinema. As part of this study, an interview was conducted with the course tutor to discuss what sort of benefits were gained by course participants. The course attracts up to ten students a year from a range of backgrounds - women who wanted to come back to learning after raising families; photography, fine art or film students seeking to expand their technical 19 skills, and their portfolios; and Rio visitors and local residents simply interested in learning a new skill. The association with the Rio was felt to be invaluable for the course, and meant that the students were able not only to view screenings of their work in progress, but also to promote their finished product in a public arena. It took the course out of a purely academic environment and placed it in a professional work environment, making it much more clearly vocational and career-enhancing. It was also a good social network for course participants, and for some had helped to reduce feelings of isolation - for example, for people new to the area, or for mothers who had felt excluded from work or learning networks while raising their families. For some of the course participants, it had also re-introduced them to film- watching. It wasn't unusual for students to go upstairs to the auditorium to see a film after the course session had finished. Kush Promotions: Bridge to Normal Living Similar benefits for participants were reported by the director of this digital video production course, run by Kush Promotions. As well as helping to engage a group of socially excluded young people, who had been having problems with substance misuse and offending, participants also learned new film-making skills, and were introduced to the joys of film-watching. Many of the course participants became regular Rio visitors after the course. The director of Kush Promotions also felt that having the course based at the Rio made the cinema appear more accessible to the wider local community. This course ran from 2001 to December 2003. Balik Arts: Video Projects About 24-30 students per year participate in the Balik Arts Video Projects, which are based at the Rio. Most of the students are local young people from Turkish, Kurdish and Turkish Cypriot backgrounds. And some of the projects are targeted at specific groups, such as young offenders. The course leader reports similar benefits to those highlighted above for the above courses: increased confidence, ideas for future training and careers, enhanced social networks and an increased appreciation of film-watching (enhanced by the provision of free tickets to selected Rio screenings). 20 Other future projects In an interview with Hackney Council, they were very supportive of the Rio's links with various sectors of the community, and programming to appeal to different minority ethnic groups. However, they were keen that these links were expanded, and were organised in such a way that they did not rely completely on the generosity and over- work of the cinema manager, but had proper funding and planning. The tape slide course tutor was also keen to expand on the current programme of tuition, and had been talking to the cinema about the possibility of setting up various other courses at the cinema, such as animation courses for children, video editing courses, darkroom work and other courses to feed into an MA in film-making. Balik Arts are hoping to expand their reach into the black community. There has been some trouble recently between Black and Turkish school pupils, and the Rio courses have been suggested as a possible venue for bringing together different parts of the local community. 18.104.22.168 Contribution to the sense of place / Focus for pride in the local area In May 2003, an article in the Hackney Gazette alerted the Rio and its audience to a proposed development for Dalston which included a 4-screen multiplex in its plans. Although it was recognised that Hackney would benefit from having more than one cinema, the Rio felt that a cinema built so nearby would pose a serious threat to its future. The Rio management sought public support to oppose planning permission being granted, and features appeared in both the Hackney Gazette and Time Out. Part of the Time Out feature is quoted below: "Hackney is under-screened, but it's a good bet that without extra support the Rio wouldn't survive a competitor on its doorstep playing the commercial fare that underwrites the rest of its programme. Given that the council (along with many local residents) only recently contributed to the Rio's refurbishment, we hope it's not intending just to stand back and watch this 88-year-old landmark institution wither" Time Out, July 2003 21 The Rio supporters rose to the challenge. More than 150 emails and letters were received by the Planning department supporting the Rio's position, and planning permission for the new cinema was refused. This was a clear demonstration of local and London-wide support for the cinema, and further evidence of this ongoing support came from the discussion at the audience focus group, and from interviews with representatives of the Hackney Gazette and Time Out, and Hackney Council. The News Editor of the Hackney Gazette thought that the Rio was seen by people as more than just a cinema. It was a "meeting place" and "a local landmark - most people of know of it", with its Art Deco frontage and being situated in the main shopping area. He felt it was "an essential community facility". When lists of "places of interest" in Hackney were being compiled, the cinema always featured alongside other nearby entertainment venues such as Hackney Empire and the Ocean. The Rio is also featured in the Council's "Discover Hackney" brochures, 8000 of which are distributed throughout the borough. The cultural development officer at Hackney Council agreed that the Empire, Ocean and Rio were the three best known cultural institutions in Hackney; and said that the Council were particularly keen to support the Rio which was the only cinema in the borough and "a strong and vibrant community-focused institution, rather than a commercial enterprise". He explained that the Council had been working closely on programming and organisational development with the cinema's board and management over recent months, to ensure that the cinema's future is secure. The Rio is recognised not just as a local cinema, but as one of the key London art-house cinemas. Time Out - which has an estimated readership of 280,000, and is distributed throughout London and the rest of the UK - always has listings for the Rio cinema, and will often include a review of the film in its 'repertory and special screenings' section, and special coverage is always given to the Turkish and Kurdish film festivals. In a poll of Time Out readers a few years ago, the Rio appeared as one of their top 15 London cinemas. In the focus group with Rio regulars, very strong feelings of loyalty were expressed towards the cinema, and also a recognition that continued support was important in order to retain the cinema. 22 "I am aware that it does need supporting, that if I am going to spend whatever it is, then I want to spend my money here because I want them to stay here" "I think people feel very protective towards the Rio because we don't want to lose it" Regular Rio visitors This loyalty led some people to feel guilty when they visited other cinemas! And in a discussion about the ease of sneaking in to see a second film at the multiplex without buying a second ticket, none felt comfortable about doing the same at the Rio: "The last film but one that we went to, we saw at [another cinema]. I felt terribly guilty about it because it was a film that was showing here at the time, but we happened to be passing and it was terribly convenient" "It feels quite good to cheat the big multiplexes. You feel like you are getting your money's worth" "That's a difference, isn't it? Because you feel good about cheating the multiplexes, but you wouldn't feel good about cheating the Rio... You'd come back another night and push the money through the letter box!" Regular Rio visitors Desire to support the Rio as a community resource also led some of the Rio's local suppliers to offer the cinema a reduced fee for their services. The fact that Hackney had a specialised cinema with a London-wide reputation, and in a building of architectural merit, was felt to give some kudos to Hackney - an otherwise fairly deprived area with few major entertainment venues of note. This view was held not just by Rio regulars, but also local residents who were not frequent visitors. They agreed that it created a focus for the high street, which was important for generating passing trade for other businesses. "I think it's important for Hackney, as there is not a lot going for Hackney really". 23 "I think it is a symbol of the fact that Dalston is not a dump... we have a lot here - there's the Rio, the jazz bar, a lot of excellent Turkish restaurants, the theatre. And I always think of the Rio first, as it is in a prominent position" "Without the cinema, I could imagine that a lot of the cafes and restaurants wouldn't be here as they would lose the passing trade. People wouldn't probably hang out in the high road" Rio regulars and local residents For some, support for an independent cinema was also part of a wider desire to support small local businesses in the face of increasing dominance by corporate chains. "I try to make a political decision to come, rather than go to a multi- screen. I would much rather support a local independent cinema than a multi-screen, because they're doing a Tesco really". "I think that this is the Rio's selling point. I think that the Rio's independence would appeal to a lot of people that wouldn't be able to bear the rise of the multiplex or Starbucks... I don't think I'm unusual. I think a lot of people are like that, and it's part of living in a big city. You get fed up with the giant rise of consumerism" Local residents 24 9.3 The Impact of the Rio Cinema on the Local Economy 9.3.1 Overview of income and expenditure As the following table shows, the Rio cinema receives three-quarters of its annual income from ticket sales, a further 11% from the sale of food, drink and merchandise, and 8% from advertising revenue. Table 9.3.1 Annual income of the Rio cinema % of annual turnover (2002 - 2003) Ticket sales 75% Food, drink & merchandising 11% Advertising revenue 8% Public / private funding 3% Training course income / cinema hire fees 1% Bank interest * Sundry 2% With 23 members of staff, staff costs were the biggest expense for the Rio, accounting for 39% of the annual expenditure. Film hire was the next biggest expense (31%). Table 9.3.2 Annual expenditure of the Rio cinema3 % of annual expenditure (2002 - 2003) Staff costs (excl NI & pension) 39% Film hire 31% Catering 5% Repairs and maintenance 5% Rent / mortgage 3% Advertising and publicity 4% Office costs and travel 2% Fuel and utilities 3% Insurance 2% Subscriptions & licences 1% Bank charges & finance fees 2% Other activities (inc. festivals & educational activities) 2% 9.3.2 Measuring local money flows: the Rio's local expenditure 3 Each case study cinema provided account information categorised in slightly different ways. In order to present directly comparable expenditure breakdowns for the five cinemas, Table 9.3.2 excludes NI & pensions, rates, taxes and depreciation. 25 As part of this study, we wanted to look at the place of cinemas in their local economies. In this section, we discuss the extent to which the Rio's expenditure stayed within the local area. In order to measure what proportion of the Rio's income immediately left its local area, the researchers and cinema manager first needed to agree a definition of "local", in order to calculate what constituted local spending. In making this decision, the main criterion was the catchment area for the cinema audience. Other criteria were the geography, transport links and travel patterns in the area; and the location of, and pattern of business between, suppliers in the area. For other case study cinemas, "local" was generally defined as within a 10-20 mile radius of the cinema. It was more difficult to agree a definition of the local area for the Rio. As the cinema was the only one in Hackney, the borough of Hackney may have seemed the obvious choice. However, this would not have reflected the fact that the Rio's specialised programme attracts a more London-wide audience, or the unique nature of the London economy and distribution of businesses. A four-borough definition of Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Islington and Haringey was agreed as an attempt to explore the cinema's relationship with geographically close businesses. However, any such definition is somewhat artificial in such a highly concentrated area as London. The Rio was asked to calculate the amount of its expenditure that was spent within these four boroughs. As almost all the staff lived in this immediate local area, the vast majority of the staff costs (excluding National Insurance and pension contributions) could be defined as local expenditure. Analysing the cinema's other major expense - film hire - less than 0.5% of this expenditure remained within the immediate local area, as only a single film distributor (used for only one film) was based within the four immediately local London boroughs. Where the market allowed it however, the Rio tried to use local suppliers in favour of more distant suppliers, in order to help sustain the local economy. So, for example, rent went to a local landlord (Hackney Council), almost half of the advertising and publicity budget was spent locally, as was about a third of the expenditure for repairs and maintenance, and about a quarter of confectionery expenditure was local. 26 Overall, the Rio spends about 43% of its annual expenditure within the four boroughs of Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Islington and Haringey. As the following table shows, if the area definition is expanded to Greater London, the vast majority of the Rio's expenditure (88%) remained within the region. One of the biggest expenses for the cinema (after staff costs) is film hire, and because the vast majority of UK film distributors are based in London, 95% of the film hire fees can be counted as regional expenditure. This makes it unique within this study. The majority of many other expenses were also spent within the region: for example, about three-quarters of the catering expenditure and repairs and maintenance expenditure, and two- thirds of the advertising and publicity budget. Table 9.3.3 Extent to which Rio expenditure remains within the locality / region 4 % spent locally % spent within Greater London Staff costs (excl. NI & pension) 85% 100% Film hire <0.5% 95% Catering 23% 76% Repairs and maintenance 30% 73% Rent / mortgage 100% 100% Advertising and publicity 45% 65% Office costs and travel 5% 5% Fuel and utilities 0% 0% Insurance 0% 100% Subscriptions & licences 12% 25% Bank charges & finance fees 0% 46% Other expenditure 55% 95% (inc. festivals & educational activities) 4 The local expenditure rates in this table have been calculated over a slightly different time period to that reported in Table 9.3.2. 27 9.3.3 Additional spend by cinema visitors Above, it was established that just under half of the money spent by the Rio every year remains within the local area. This is a useful partial measure of the cinema's impact on the local economy, but it does not take into account the additional impact of the cinema's audience on the local economy, that is, the money spent by cinema customers (and staff, paid and unpaid) on their way to and from the cinema in local shops, bars and restaurants, and on local transport, babysitters and so on. Precise information about how much Rio customers spent in this way was not systematically collected during this study. However, in the audience focus groups, participants mentioned several nearby Turkish restaurants and take- away outlets that they often frequented before or after visiting the cinema. The Turkish and Kurdish festivals in particular are likely to generate a significant amount of additional income in this way, as they attract a lot of additional cinema visitors from Turkish and Kurdish communities all over London and beyond. 9.3.4 Other direct or indirect local economic impacts As well as the Rio's direct expenditure on local supplies and local staff wages, the Rio has a number of other links with local businesses, which help to embed it within the local economy. Association with the Rio can be a marketing opportunity for local businesses, and several businesses sponsor events at the Rio, in return for free advertising in the cinema's brochures. For example, a number of local Turkish bakers and restaurants sponsor the Turkish and Kurdish festivals, and have their names and addresses listed in the festival programmes. Also, there have been occasional links with nearby cafes and restaurants, which have offered discounted meals to cinema users on production of a Rio ticket. The Rio has established good links with local Turkish and Kurdish businesses in Hackney, and works closely with them and the local Turkish and Kurdish communities during the annual Film Festivals. However, as mentioned earlier, interviews with some of these businesses suggested that there was room for more consolidation of these local links throughout the rest of the year. 28 In interviews with the organisers of the Kurdish and Turkish Film Festivals, both highlighted a number of ways in which the festivals were important for the local economy. The festivals' audiences visited many of Dalston's Turkish bars and restaurants; the international guests were put up at local hotels (sometimes in Dalston, and increasingly since its refurbishment, in the Islington Hilton); receptions were held in local Turkish and Kurdish restaurants; and local businesses were used by the festival organisers - for example, to design the festival brochures and posters, or to drive VIP guests around. The Rio also has links with various arms of the local film-making industry, helping to provide film-makers with opportunities to screen their work. For example, in 2003, the Rio held events to celebrate the work of Asif Kapadia, Hackney-born writer/director of the award-winning feature film The Warrior, and hosted a special screening for pupils of his former school, the Homerton College of Technology. The Rio is occasionally able to grant the request of less well-known local film-makers to screen their short films or features. A recent example was a short film about the anti-war rally. Other links with the local film-making industry include recent talks with Lux Distribution about a possible joint project: the production of a Dalston News Reel, to be screened by the Rio before the main feature. And the Rio also occasionally hosts out of hours screenings for the cast and crew of low budget films. 29 9.4 Summary of the Rio's impact on the local community Impact on local economy The Rio cinema has some impact on the labour market of Dalston through its regular employment of twenty-three members of staff, mostly part-time. It also plays an important role in offering networking and screening opportunities for local film-makers and film-making tutors. Where possible, the cinema uses local suppliers and service providers, and employs local staff. Just under half of the Rio's expenditure (43%) remains within the local area, i.e. boroughs of Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Islington and Haringey. Almost all of the cinema's expenditure (88%) remains within Greater London. Association with the Rio can be a marketing opportunity for local businesses, for instance through placing advertisements in the Rio brochures. Cinema visitors also bring money to local bars and restaurants, particularly during the Turkish and Kurdish festivals. Other local businesses, such as hotels and taxi firms also benefit. Impact on local community The Rio offers the only cinema provision in Hackney, and offers local residents the unusual opportunity to see specialised films outside the West End. It offers an alternative to the multiplexes in nearby boroughs. Through targeted screenings, the Rio increases access to cinema for otherwise excluded sectors of the community: for instance, young parents, the elderly, and particular local minority ethnic groups, including Turkish, Kurdish, Spanish and African-Caribbean. Various film and video production courses run at the Rio offer learning opportunities and social networks to students from a variety of demographic backgrounds. The Rio’s recently launched ‘Spring into Film’ 3-month trial programme of educational screenings and activities has been a big success and the cinema manager hopes to continue these activities in the future. However funding and staffing levels could be a limiting factor upon this work. 30 Environmental impact The cinema is a building of architectural merit in a run-down neighbourhood, and is seen as a landmark for the area. It is a focus for the high street, and leads to increased footfall in the area in the evening. Challenges for the cinema Although the Rio engages well with particular sectors of the community, it is less effective in attracting other sectors, such as young people and those from Hackney's black community. The local Turkish and Kurdish communities are well served during the festivals, but are not regular cinema visitors outside these times. The Rio's marketing and programming strategies might need to be reassessed, in order to address these issues.