Time Capsule: Gamla Bíó - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Time Capsule: Gamla Bíó

Time Capsule: Gamla Bíó

Published August 25, 2017

Elías Þórsson
Photos by
Art Bicnick

One of Reykjavík’s most exquisite buildings, Gamla bíó (the Old Cinema), is one of the those rare spots that makes you forget you live in a village at the end of the world. Instead, when you enter it, you feel like you live in a cultivated city somewhere far away. It was built by the Danish entrepreneur Peter Petersen in 1926, who in a very colonial-overlord sort of way, named it Reykjavíkur Biograftheater, and built an apartment for himself on the top floor. The first movie to be screened there was the 1925 epic, ‘Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ,’ which stars Ramon Novarro (who was murdered by two male prostitutes in 1968). In 1980, the old hall ceased being a cinema and came to house the Icelandic Opera. Now, with opera performances having moved to Harpa, it hosts concerts and conferences, and Petersen’s apartment has been turned into the rooftop terrace bar, Petersen Svítan.

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