Kevin Smith lends star power to save Vancouver's Rio Theatre
Another celebrity is lending a helping hand to save the Rio Theatre by entertaining Vancouver audiences in support of the East Vancouver landmark with an uncertain future.
Actor, writer and director Kevin Smith who's best known for his movies Mallrats, Chasing Amy and Dogma came to town for two standup shows to help raise money to save the 80-year-old theatre from demolition. On Friday evening, people lined up around the block to see the sold-out event.
Not many people can make a room full of strangers laugh about a near-fatal heart attack, but Smith can. He revealed he'd had the health scare in February by posting a video from the hospital.
"I had a heart attack, a massive heart attack, and very nearly died," he says in the video.
But on stage Friday evening, he appeared healthy and ready to give the crowd some laughs.
He first came to the city in 1992 to attend Vancouver Film School. But he revealed that when he first got accepted to the school, he didn't know where Vancouver was.
"My mom was like, tiger, that's really far," he said during his opening remarks. "And I said no, it's on the East Coast. It goes like New Jersey, Massachusetts, Vancouver."
The Rio's owner, Corinne Lea, said Smith has helped raise "quite a bit of money" for the campaign to save the theatre.
"His energy level is amazing. We weren't sure what was going to happen after we found out he'd had a massive heart attack," she said. "He has really made a difference."
Smith's performance came at a crucial time because theatre still has to raise hundreds of thousands more dollars by Tuesday to avoid being sold to developers.
New zoning regulations for the Rio Theatre at Commercial Drive and Broadway allow for the land it’s on to be used for residential towers up to 10 stories tall. That has the building's owners, who are not the same as the operators of the theatre, looking to sell.
Lea and her business partner put in an offer to buy the building, and the owners accepted as long as long as they came up with the money by midnight on April 2.
They launched a Save the Rio campaign hoping to raise the $3 million down payment with $2 million from private investors and $1 million from donors.
"Every day is getting closer. Every moment is getting closer," said senior programmer Rachel Fox. "We're getting donations from people around the world."
The weekend of fundraising will feature a toy auction and other performances in the coming days.
Toy Traders in Langley donated piles of toys with connections to Hollywood to be sold at the event, and there will also be a secret screening of three movies followed by a variety show telethon on Sunday.
It's all to get the community to come together to give what they can so that the curtain will never fall on a theatre that opened before World War II.
With reports from CTV Vancouver's Penny Daflos St John Alexander