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Hoping to save theatre

The operators of a threatened east Vancouver cinema have made an offer to buy the building and hope they will be able to save one of the city's last independent movie theatres.

Corinne Lea said and she her business partner made an offer to buy The Rio Theatre on Wednesday. She declined to say how much they bid but said it was higher than the $4 million the building was assessed at.

Lea began trying to raise enough money to buy the property after it was listed for sale. She said if the offer is accepted, she will still need to assemble more investors and fundraise, but many people have already pledged money.

"We've basically been overwhelmed," she said, adding that a petition to save The Rio had garnered more than 20,000 signatures.

"My email is just inundated with people who want to make serious investments to people who want to give us $100. We've got the whole range."

Actors and directors, including filmmaker Kevin Smith, threw their support behind the beloved east Vancouver theatre, known for its lively late-night screenings of cult classics, science fiction and horror movies.

Smith, director of comedies "Clerks" and "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back," said on Twitter he would be happy to hold a benefit screening to raise some cash. The Vancouver Film School alumni and self-professed "Vancouver lover" said he couldn't afford to buy the building himself.

"I haven't had a hit movie in years!" he tweeted, adding: "Wait a second: Have I EVER had a hit movie?"

Neill Blomkamp, director of "District 9" and "Chappie," also offered to help on social media, suggesting a showing of short films made by his Vancouver-based Oats Studios.

Lea said her team had been speaking with Smith and will move ahead with a benefit show if her offer on the building is accepted.

She previously owned the property but had to put it up for sale in 2011. She said it was purchased at that time by theatre magnate Leonard Schein.

However, Schein said he does not own the building. He said he and another individual put up the mortgage on the property but it is owned by a company called 1660 East Broadway, which he said has several shareholders and he is not among them. The shareholders do not wish to be public, he said.

Schein said he took Lea's offer to the owners and it looked "very good." He said he was not aware of other offers, but Lea said there were several.

The prospect of the theatre's closure prompted an outcry from local film lovers and industry members.



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