A person wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past the independent Rio Theatre, displaying a COVID-19 related message on its marquee, in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020. The Rio Theatre in Vancouver says it’s reopening as a sports bar showing games on the big screen, a move that would work around provincial health orders that allow bars to stay open but theatres to close. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A person wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past the independent Rio Theatre, displaying a COVID-19 related message on its marquee, in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020. The Rio Theatre in Vancouver says it’s reopening as a sports bar showing games on the big screen, a move that would work around provincial health orders that allow bars to stay open but theatres to close. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

With B.C. movie theatres closed, Rio indie cinema says it will reopen as a sports bar

Operators of the Rio have been frequent critics of provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s guidelines

One of Vancouver’s most prominent independent movie houses is rebranding itself as a sports bar in an attempted workaround of the province’s COVID-19 health orders.

Rio Theatre owner Corinne Lea says as of Saturday the cinema will pivot to operating as a bar that projects sporting events on the big screen.

It’s part of a move that would comply with British Columbia’s guidelines that say restaurants and bars are fine to stay open, but movie theatres aren’t.

“We’re trying to point out how these rules don’t make any sense,” Lea said on Wednesday.

“But at the same time, there’s nothing we can do… except try to figure out how we can keep the doors open.”

The province’s cinemas were forced to close in November and won’t be allowed to reopen until at least early next month.

Lea said she hasn’t heard from health authorities, but her goal is to “work within the rules” and get her business back on its feet in the sporting world.

“We’re all having to pivot and become jocks,” she said.

“All my film geek programmers were trying to Google the NHL and understand what sports are playing when.”

Vancouver Coastal Health declined to comment and representatives for the province did not immediately respond to questions.

Operators of the Rio have been frequent critics of provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s guidelines for local businesses, which Lea said have been “increasingly frustrating” because of their inconsistencies.

For instance, gyms and bowling alleys are allowed to stay open with certain restrictions, while cinemas weren’t granted the same exceptions.

Over the Christmas holiday, the Rio used its theatre marquee to question the province’s approach to safety, pointing out that while theatres were closed, malls were still allowed to operate.

The latest marquee update on Tuesday took a more succinct approach: “Screw the arts. We’re a sports bar now.”

The Rio isn’t the first Vancouver movie house to experiment with a different business model. Last month, the city’s Hollywood Theatre reopened as a bar, serving cocktails and snacks, but not showing films.

Other indie theatres across the country have taken less bold routes to survival after being forced to close under their local health guidelines.

Some continued to operate concession stands or sell alcohol, while the owners of Ottawa’s ByTowne Cinema chose to permanently close in December rather than face an uncertain future.

ALSO READ: Canadian malls, conference centres, hotels offer up space for COVID vaccination centres

David Friend, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusMovies

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

A rainbow shining on Kelowna General Hospital on May 12, 2020 International Nurses Day. (Steve Wensley - Prime Light Media)
New COVID cases trending down in Interior Health

24 new cases reported Thursday, Feb. 25, death at Kelowna General Hospital

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
30 new COVID-19 cases, five more deaths in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases to 7,271 since testing began

The Barriere Outdoor Club’s ski and snowshoe trails at the Barriere Forks Trails had plenty of snow last week, and thanks to the club’s groomer, Steve Rainer, the trails were reported to be in great shape (Mary MacLennan photo)
Outdoor ski and snowshoe trails ready at Barriere Forks

New signs and freshly groomed ski and snowshoe trails are ready and… Continue reading

(Metro Creative graphic)
Heart Stroke takes Heart Month fundraiser 100% online

Door-to-door Canvass goes virtual as pandemic accelerates digital innovations

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
B.C. woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

Most Read