The Rio in 1985

The above image is the cover for a 12″ record I dug out of the archives to share with you all. A benefit recording for the Evergreen Mission, behind these tough-looking chaps is the former Rio Cinema on Yonge St., which in 1985, when this photo was taken, was showing Chuck Norris in Missing In Action II, Cat People, and a selection of other films which ran continuously until 5am.

The Rio was a 500-seat cinema located at 375 Yonge St. which now houses an adult video and toy store. One of the oldest flicker-houses in the city, it first opened as The Big Nickel in 1913, was known as The National for some time and by 1938, had settled permanently as The Rio. In its twilight years, the building was in a permanently shoddy state: one could easily miss some of the kung-fu action because of an 18-inch gash ripped into the screen; and a section of the ceiling dripping god-only-knows down onto the seats seemed about ready to cave in. The latter was brought to the attention of the Director of the Theatres Branch, which by then must have been frustrating job due to the decline of many former palaces and neighbourhood theatres. When the area was sectioned off with velvet rope (fancy!), it did little to detract patrons from crossing over and sitting below a potential avalanche of water and asbestos. It eventually closed in 1991.

Up the street is The Big Slice, which is still there today, and a typical late-night haunt of mine after Midnight Madness screenings during TIFF. The lights for the old Coronet, another grind-house theatre, can be seen at the intersection, but by then it had been converted into the jewelry store which is still there today.

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2 Responses to “The Rio in 1985”

  1. Tim Says:

    This shot shows the “classic” Jean-Claude Van Damme film ‘Lionheart’ which came out around 1990/91 on the marquee, so it must have been near the close of the theatre.

  2. Eric Veillette Says:

    Hey Tim, many thanks for all your comments. I always thought that marquee was showing the 1987 version of Lionheart, but taking a closer look, Van Damme is definitely on those posters. the film was released in January 1991, probably hitting the Rio a few months later. No snow on the ground, but winter coats still abound. Perhaps March, April? A wonderful entry in the Ellis Wiley collection. His Kodachrome shot of the Imperial Cinema in 1972 is one of my faves.

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