Cinema Rio in Laken

In the Maria-Christina street in Laeken, a former art deco cinema is in for a major renovation. The closed Cinema Rio has been a hardware shop for years, but now the owner wants to expand further. Some local residents fear for the future of the building. Cinema Rio was a place for film lovers in Laken until about fifty years ago. The cinema can still be recognised by its red canopy and the blue tiles on the facade. Rio opened in 1916 and closed its doors in 1975. That same year, two other cinemas in Maria-Christinastraat also closed down.

The redevelopment project of this listed building is now underway. The company Debrico Matériau, which has been present at the back of the building for 22 years, plans to install a showroom for sanitary equipment on the ground floor and a multi-purpose room on the first floor, which will be used for a multitude of cultural and associative activities. For some local residents, the place should be returned to its original function. "It is the only cinema in Laeken that can still be saved," says local resident Yannick Schandené in a reaction to La Dernière Heure, who cites the Grignoux cinemas in Liege as an example. "Neighbourhood cinemas have their meaning. An associative fabric is being recreated in Laeken, and there is a lack of infrastructures of this type.” The concerned inhabitants of Laeken are calling for a letter to be written to the consultation committee to prevent this piece of Brussels cinema history from becoming a sanitation showroom cut in two. They’ve created a website where a model letter in both French and Dutch can be found.

The public enquiry ends on 10 March. The ball is now in the court of the regional authorities, who will decide at the end of the consultation commission. In the event of a refusal, the owner has announced that he is moving towards a place dedicated solely to the showroom.

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