By Cat Cook: January 2022, Greece (the place, not the movie!).
I’ve seen quite a few references on this blog and on the Bearsden Academy FB page to the Rio cinema and I guess if you grew up in Bearsden (or nearby) in the 70s, then you’ll probably have a few memories of the old place.
I virtually lived there.
Not because I loved that old cinema – which I did
Not because I was such a huge movie fan – which I was
I had no choice really, my dad was the manager of the Rio for 15 years, my mum ran the kiosk, my big brother helped out after school and our house overlooked the damn place, it was a real family affair and there was no escape really!
When my dad took over the management of the Rio in 1971 it was already 37 years old, having been built in 1934 during the art-deco period with an original capacity of 1,120 seats, sadly there don’t seem to be any images available of when it was in its prime.
I was only 7 when the Rio came into my life, but I have so many strong memories of the place.
One of the first films I can remember sneaking into see as a 7 year old, was ‘A Clockwork Orange’, I’m not going to pretend that I knew what the hell was going on with the gangs in their white outfits, bowler hats and eye makeup, drinking milk – but it always stayed with me.
I also remember seeing the Exorcist age 9 and realising it wasn’t a Disney movie – “Your mother sucks cocks in hell” was something I learned not to repeat at the dinner table!
Similarly, seeing Carrie as a 9 year old was a bit heavy and brought about a few sleepless nights!
I should also add at this point that I loved Bambi and Mary Poppins too, I was quite normal really!
I just had access to all the cinematic experiences on offer and my Mum & Dad were sooo busy running the cinema 24-7 to worry about me skunking about the place.
Of course, being a ‘cinema brat’ had its benefits, apart from having the privilege of ‘access all areas’ I was spoiled rotten by the staff and my Birthday parties were always extremely popular.
One memory still treasured was the Rio Saturday Club, especially at Christmas when we’d collect donations for Strathblane Children’s Home.
In fact, if I had to choose my favourite Rio perk, it was going to the wholesalers to select the gifts for the kids at the Home before going up there with dad to hand them out.
As you can imagine, I saw so many great movies at the Rio, often multiple times!
I reckon I must have seen Grease about 30 times and Saturday Night Fever wasn’t far behind.
My big brother Graham and his mates (Russ Stewart & Des Marlborough – both of this parish) were regular cinema-goers as well, but I remember they were more interested in the “adult themed’ genres of the day!
Whenever I see a great 70s movie now, like The Godfather, Jaws, Star Wars or Airplane it transports me back to the first time I saw them at the Rio and reminds me of the long queues of expectant movie-goers forming outside the cinema an hour or so before the doors open
Like any business that deals with the public, running a cinema wasn’t always plain sailing, particularly at weekends, and particularly as the Rio was equidistant between Maryhill and Drumchapel.
There were quite a few incidents with rival gangs, mainly in the car park thankfully, and with gangs threatening people in the queue before relieving them of their money.
The local police were usually quick to react to the situation, often handing out their own justice, at the rear of the cinema.
It was funny to see people trying the same old tricks, time and time again, always thinking they were the first to think of them!
Like – the folk who would pay for one person and then try to open the fire-doors for their mates, always believing they were the first to try it and couldn’t understand why they got caught.
Like – the folk who would try and hide in the toilets to see a movie twice. Always believing they were the first to try it and couldn’t understand why they got caught.
Going through the lost property box was always good fun as well and it was amazing to see what people left behind…. everything from umbrellas to frilly knickers.
Everyone mucked in and there was a real kinship behind the scenes, a lot of the staff became like family to us, especially after my brother Graham died.
Many folk reading this may even remember some of the Rio team: Mary and Linda the young good-looking girls, Wullie the friendly doorman and Jimmy the projectionist, who would nip out onto the roof for a fly smoke and sometimes miss the changing of the reel, leaving a blank screen and a lot of disgruntled customers….
They were all great people, who always turned up whatever the weather with many of them travelling by foot from Maryhill or Drumchapel daily.
Of course, there was a lot of ‘back-row’ action back then as the cinema was one of the few places you could go with your boyfriend or girlfriend when you were too young to go to the pub.
In retrospect I should have started a gossip column as I knew everyone who was dating at the cinema on a Friday & Saturday night.
Funnily enough, when I went on a teenage cinema date myself, I still went to the Rio, the perks were too good to ignore.
A friend of the family managed the Odeon in Glasgow so I could always go there if I fancied a change. Basically, I never had to pay to see a movie back then.
My dad managed the Rio from 1971 until it closed in 1985 and was turned into flats.
By 1985 I guess I had temporarily fallen out of love with the cinema as Nursing, Boys & Holidays came into my life.
I did rekindle my love as the facilities and options improved through the modern multiplexes but for me there will only be one cinema that is truly in my heart.
In the words of Simon Le Bon – Her Name is RIO……