A short history of the Art Deco Rio Cinema in London's Dalston

A short history of the Art Deco Rio Cinema in London's Dalston

The Rio Cinema on Kingsland High Street in North East London's Dalston neighbourhood is one of the locations pinpointed on our Hackney Type Map, authored by London-based type and technology designer Lilly Marques.

The Grade II-listed Art Deco Rio Cinema has over a century of history. This landmark is a hotspot for Hackney locals, running as a cooperative independent cinema.

Originally an auctioneer's shop owned by a 'pioneering business woman called Clara Ludski'. In 1909 she commissioned W.E. Trent to convert it into a silent cinema, the Kingsland Palace of Animated Pictures, one of London's first cinemas. Soon, due to demand, Luski bought the neighbouring properties and recruited architect George Coles to design a purpose-built cinema, which opened in 1915.

In the 1930s to cinema changed hands to London & Southern Cinemas Ltd and then Capital & Provincial News Theatres. In 1937 it was refurbished in the Art Deco style within its original shell by architect F.E. Bromige, reopening as the Classic Cinema Dalston.

Restored in 1997, it has a 400 seat main auditorium with red velvet seats and red curtains – with a full stage for theatre, comedy and other events too. Its status was reaffirmed when in 2012 Transport for London named the bus stop outside after it ‘Rio Cinema’ – the ultimate praise. A second screen was added in 2017 in the basement and the Ludski Bar in 2019.

The exterior evolved over time, and now hosts a huge acrylic neon box-shaped sign that pays homage to the heyday of cinema in the 1930s. This three-dimensional illuminated lettering is such a joy to see, a typographical craft, combining its geometric elongated shapes with a more decorative nature.

The cinema displays magnificent colours by night. Lighting as a design tool is very powerful in creating a mood – it is a matter of matching that with the subject, in this case cinematic experience. Its light embellishes and visually connects ‘Rio’ and the below ‘cinema’ which is displayed in Sans type.

Take a walking tour of locations on the Hackney Type Map with author with Lilly Marques here and find out more about another location on the map The Egg Stores here.


Hackney Type Map – Blue Crow Media

Find it on our Hackney Type Map available to buy here

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