Didn't expect to have to prepare closure of Bíó Paradís

30.01.2020 - 14:44
Bíó Paradís við Hverfisgötu.
 Mynd: RÚV
Bíó Paradís is facing the prospect of the rent increasing three-or-fourfold on its cinema premises on Hverfisgata, central Reykjavík. The independent cinema’s director, Hrönn Sveinsdóttir, says there is no business plan on the table that could make that possible. She has not given up just yet, however.

As reported this morning, Bíó Paradís (an Icelandic translation of ‘Cinema Paradiso’) this morning handed all employees three months’ termination notice. It will likely close its doors for the last time on 1st May. It employs five full-time staff and 25 part-time; as well as a large team of ad-hoc contractors for events. 

Hrönn says that the condition of the building has been a constant problem throughout the decade since the cinema opened. She says it became clear five years ago that the building’s owners would not be able to hold the rent down in the long-term, at the same time as repairing the building. She says Bíó Paradís has benefitted from low rents and refused to criticise the building’s owners for wanting to bring the rent up to current market average. 

“It was clear to everyone that this situation was coming. I didn’t expect that we would need to prepare to close, but there is nothing on the table for us and we need to make these contingencies. Anything else would be irresponsible, if we were unable to pay our staff wages and redundancy notice,” Hrönn says.

©Nanna Dís
 Mynd: ©Nanna Dís 2013 - www.nannadis.com
Hrönn Sveinsdóttir.

How much money for cultural value?

Hrönn says that around 20 percent of Bíó Paradís’s budget has come from State and city subsidies and Hrönn says her team has been in talks with the City of Reykjavík about the future for the past five years. Asked if the battle is now over, Hrönn says no: she is still trying to talk to city and government representatives. People need to ask if the cultural value of Bíó Paradís is worth fighting for. She adds, however, that the cinema will almost certainly go through some changes, if it survives. 

Hrönn says she has received a great deal of warmth and support in the community and that people clearly love Bíó Paradís—not least the young people who have enjoyed the atmosphere and excitement of independent cinema where the goal is to educate and stimulate their interest in the art of film. 

If Bíó Paradís cannot be saved in its current location, there is no plan to re-open anywhere else. It would be too expensive to create a new cinema from scratch, she says. 

“Part of what goes well for us is that we are a cultural house in the middle of daily life, with links to other [institutions] in the city centre. Bíó Paradís has always done the impossible and often been it tight spots. But this is the biggest lion in our path to date,” Hrönn says. 

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Alexander Elliott
Project manager
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