Watching hockey at the RIO Theatre off Commercial Drive was a fun and free alternative to going to a pub.

It was another rainy day in Vancouver, so I sought out a local neighborhood place to watch the Slovakia-Canada game. It turns out that the RIO movie theatre on Broadway Commercial Drive was showing the hockey game for FREE!

NOTE: Now the RIO Theatre is going to show the gold medal game on Sunday between USA – Canada. I’d recommend everyone coming out to watch the game on a big screen and enjoy the atmosphere of the RIO.

I arrived at the Theatre around 620pm for the 630pm game, so I wasn’t sure if the place would be full or not. It was my first time at the theatre since it opened under the management of Corinne Lea, who with her investment group bought the theatre and property two years ago. Showing a hockey game in a movie theatre is just another innovative and exciting usage of the theatre, which is returning people to the movie theatre by offer midnight show, live concerts and entertainment.

I was disappointed at first not to see the theatre full, but was pleased at how comfortable the movie seats were as I settled in for the game. I was impressed as I looked around at the condition of the theatre, the lights, the paints, the seats, and the upkeep showed that a lot of love had gone into reviving this a great local theatre.

As the game started, I feel the buzz in the crowd of families, couples, and friends build. About 150+ people had gathered with some people waving Canadian flags or proudly wearing their red and whites.

Everyone was buying popcorn and sodas, just like at a movie show. It was a new experience to breathe in the smell of fresh popcorn and real butter in the air, while watching a hockey. The overall feeling was that everyone was enjoying themselves.

The game was exciting and the RIO audience got more animated and vocal as the game went on. A few fun moments were when the audience clapped in snyc with the crowd at Canada Hockey place or chanted “Louuuu” whenever Luongo made a great save.

Canada led Slovakia 3-0 until the third period. For two periods, everyone was cheering Canada on confidently, then one bad goal by Luongo and you could feel the tension in the air. Only 4:53 minutes to go, and it was suddenly 3-2 with Canada holding on and Slovakia pressing.

In a nail biter of a 3rd period, the game came down to one final save by Luongo against his Vancouver Canucks teammater Pavel Demitra with 10 seconds left in the game.

Canada wins! Now the RIO Theatre is going to show the gold medal game on Sunday between USA – Canada. I’d recommend everyone coming out to watch the game on a big screen and enjoy the atmosphere of the RIO.

I spoke with Corinne Lea and it was clear that facebook, and the power of social media / networking has been a huge part of enabling the RIO Theatre to quickly reach and engage their audience. In a time when less people were going to movies, Corinne went with the adage that “if you can’t beat them, then join them”. This is part of why the RIO is providing Vancouver and the Commercial Drive area a great way to listen to live concerts, musicians, poets, watch hollywood movies and midnight cult shows, or watch sports events.

The RIO has started promotional initiatives that are different than the traditional movie chains. For example, part of the RIO employees job is posting custom made RIO movie posters around the neighborhood. Theatre goers are encouraged to send text messages, use twitter or facebook updates, and provide feedback with the RIO staff. It’s clear that RIO and their staff are changing the way Theatres are successful.

Corinne Lea says their tagline is “We’re more fun!” and if Friday was any indication, then they’re doing a great job and also reinvigorating the Commercial Drive area.

Jonathan Hanley is an entrepreneur, web guy, writer and photographer--- into all things social media and communications. He has worked with international green groups and sustainable businesses for more than 25 years. Bringing people together by building and growing social communities for 14 years.

Jonathan has blogged 28 posts here.