From Iceland — Cinema Paradiso

Cinema Paradiso

Cinema Paradiso

Published October 1, 2010

A few left over champagne glasses on the counter are the sole evidence of the previous night’s big opening party for Bíó Paradís. Without yesterday’s crowd of housewarming guests, we are able to view the new cinema in all its glory. Images of Alfred Hitchcock, Marilyn Monroe and other icons of film history look down on the visitors from the red-painted walls. Retro couches, an old piano and a collection of film posters turn this unspectacular building into a cosy place to hang out. The Grapevine is here to learn about Bíó Paradís from the new cinema’s programme director, filmmaker and -critic Ásgrímur Sverrisson.
This cinema was known as Regnboginn until finally closing down last June. Now it’s re-opening as Bíó Paradís. Why didn’t you keep the old name?
We have a completely different mission. This is the first cinema of its kind in Iceland. It’s true, Regnboginn started as kind of an art cinema, but not by choice. When it opened in 1977, the other cinemas had the big studio contracts, so basically Regnboginn couldn’t get any of their films and had no choice but to buy independent films. Independent doesn’t simply mean just art films. A lot of big event movies were actually independent, like Rambo, for example. Regnboginn didn’t have an arthouse profile, and eventually become more and more a mainstream cinema. Although the name Regnboginn actually describes our ethos well—a rainbow has many colours and stands for variety—we changed the name to Bíó Paradís to have a clean break.
Can you describe these ‘different colours’ of Bíó Paradís?
We have four things we want to emphasise. Firstly, we are going to screen the latest arthouse films from world cinema. Two, we are going to have a big repertory section, starting with the French New Wave films—the big guns. Third we are going to act as home to the film festivals in Reykjavík, including the Reykjavík International Film Festival (RIFF), starting next week, and smaller festivals like Reykjavik Short Film Days, Short & Docs and the Nordisk Panorama. We also want to put on our own festivals, by showing films according to themes, such as the ones we are now showing about Reykjavík and its music scene. Fourth, providing film history education is a very important part of our mission. Next year we will hopefully start screening films for children, both in elementary school and high school, as part of the curriculum. Education about film history has been completely neglected in Iceland.
Do you think there will be an audience for the kinds of films you plan on showing here?
This is what we are excited about finding out—will anybody come? In Iceland, cinemas get 5.3 visits per capita, which is the highest rate in the world. But this is very deceptive. The main audience is comprised of 15–25 year olds, and they make about 20, 30 or 40 visits per year. Older people go quite infrequently. Also the films on offer are around 85% from Hollywood, 10% Icelandic, and only 5% are art films or documentaries. The result is that interest and regard for film culture is very low. But there are a few people here—I would guess that it is about 10–15.000 people—that appreciate a variety in film. I think this is a large percentage, compared to the population. We want to bring these people together to create a growing community. That’s our mission, and it is a very ambitious one. We have no idea if it will work or not. But what we are really worried about is, that people will say: “Oh it’s so nice to have this cinema, yeah, I will definitely go!”—and then they never go. Now it is 17:15, (turns around to the young men selling tickets by the entrance) did anyone buy a ticket? Oh, yes? We sold a couple of tickets? So we are not completely dead!
Ásgrímur looked like he was joking, but he displayed hints of concern at the same time. Bíó Paradís got a grant from the city council to get the cinema started, but if the theatre manages to establish itself it will depend only on a paying audience for sustenance.
Ticket Prices & Discount Cards
Bíó Paradís offers a range of discounts for regular visitors.
Regular price : 1150 ISK.
Member card: 2500 ISK. You get 10% of every ticket you buy; one ticket is included in the price.
Bronze subscription: 13 800 ISK. You buy fifteen tickets, that is 920 ISK per ticket (20% off).
Silver subscription: 17 500 ISK. You buy twenty tickets, that is 875 ISK per ticket (24% off).
Gold subscription: 23 250 ISK. You buy thirty tickets, that is 775 ISK per ticket (32% off).

  • Bíó Paradís Hverfisgata 54, 101 Reykjavík
  • Phone: 695 6121
  • Website:
Support The Reykjavík Grapevine!
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!


Movies & Theatre
A Platform For Marginalised Women In Film

A Platform For Marginalised Women In Film


Show Me More!