Stockholm’s Classic Cinemas
Christie Petrakopoulos introduces us to several historic and classic cinemas in Stockholm.
Swedish film history dates back to the silent era and through the years it has been represented by important figures. From Victor Sjöström and Mauritz Stiller to the amazing Ingmar Bergman, Sweden has a long tradition of talented directors. Actresses like Ingrid Bergman (Casablanca, 1942), Greta Garbö (The Saga of Gosta Berling, 1924) and Anita Ekberg (La Dolce Vita, 1960) have certainly left their mark on Hollywood and because of their indisputable talent earned many awards.
The Swedish word for a cinema in Swedish is bio short for biograf. The majority of Swedish cinemas are owned and operated by the largest cinema chain in Sweden established in 1907, SF Bio.
In Stockholm, cinemas that were built in the early 1920s are still open today. Despite being renovated in recent years, their old architecture and decoration is preserved, and this gives them their unique character.
Inspired by drama theatres, they have balconies and curtains and were decorated by works of art and other elegant and luxurious elements inspired by classicism. However, that tendency stopped in the 1930s and cinemas started gradually resembling the venues that we know today.
More specifically, balconies were the first to be replaced by sloped sitting areas. Neon signs were introduced later in the 1950s, and are undoubtedly a common characteristic of cinema entrances around Sweden.
Multi-screen cinemas made their appearance in the 1970s but some single-screen cinemas are still preserved today like the beautiful Skandia, inaugurated in 1923 and designed by the internationally acclaimed architect Gunnar Asplund. Skandia is situated in the heart of the city at Drottninggatan 82, Stockholm’s busiest commercial street.
One more cinema from the 1920s is Sture at Birger Jarlsgatan 41A in Östermalm. Today it has three auditoriums and is a favourite among Stockholm’s many film festivals with screenings all year round. Grand, on Sveavägen 45, opened its doors in 1933 and although it has been operated in the past by different companies, it is now driven by SF Bio.
On Kungsgatan 24, you can find two beautiful old cinemas; Saga and Rigoletto. Built in 1937, Saga had originally one auditorium but in the 1990s three more were built and named Anglais, Aveny and Bostock. Further down the street, at Kungsgatan 16, is Rigoletto that was built in 1939.
Rigoletto today has four auditoriums and even a VIP area where alcohol is served. Note – you need to be over 18 to enter the VIP area.
Park, on Sturegatan 18, would have to be one of my favourite cinemas. The movie theatre opened its doors for the first time in 1941. Today it is fully renovated and its glamorous and aristocratic interior is well preserved. Park has a beautiful ambiance that transports you into another era. Situated right in front of Humlegården, one of Stockholm’s most beautiful central parks, this gives you the opportunity to sit in the park before or after the movie unless you want to eat in one of Östermalm’s nearby fancy restaurants.
On Södermalm island or Söder as locals call it, one can find Victoria that was originally built in 1936 and is located at Götgatan 65 between Medborgarplatsen and Skanstull metro stations. Every Monday, Cinemateket shows films at Victoria.
While still on Söder, if you’re planning to visit the area around Hornstull, then you should definitely visit Bio Rio. Built in the 1940s, the cinema has its own bistro and bar and shows films from around the world. Unfortunately the cinema is not easily accessible for people with disabilities but wheelchairs and strollers can be parked in designated areas.
Cinema history enthusiasts shouldn’t miss the opportunity to visit Filmstaden (“Film City”) Råsunda in Solna, a 10 minute train ride from Stockholm’s central station. Take the blue line towards Akalla, get off at Näckrosen and discover Sweden’s Hollywood where over 400 films were made from 1920 to the beginning of the 1970s. In what looks today like a ghost town, part of Sweden’s film history was written.
Eight of the 1920s buildings remain today and are open to the public. Guided tours are offered in English every Sunday for the price of SEK 50 (€5) but if you prefer to explore the Film City on your own, audio guides can be provided at the café that will help you travel back in time and learn about the studio’s fascinating history.
Moving on to other beautiful cinemas around the city that aren’t driven by SF Bio, Zita Folkets Bio is Stockholm’s oldest cinema. Zita opened its doors to the public in 1913. Zita has been run by Folkets Bio since 1992 and is situated on Birger Jarlsgatan 37, the street where some of the world’s most luxurious haute-couture boutiques are located. Throughout the years, the cinema’s operation changed many hands as well as names. Zita is regularly used as a venue by many film festivals.
Located a short walk away from Karlaplan metro station, Filmhuset or The Film House in English, is an interesting building. The main reason why I find this place fascinating is because all of its activities are connected to film and culture. It’s home to the Swedish Film Institute that supports and promotes the production and distribution of Swedish films as well as preserves Sweden’s film heritage. Furthermore, multiple production companies, the Swedish Arts Council and the Ingmar Bergman Foundation among others also have their offices there.
If you’re interested in literature specialising in film then you should pay a visit to the library on the first floor. The Cinemateque, Cinemateket in Swedish, organises screenings at Filmhuset’s Bio Victor and Mauritz. From silent films to the newest movies that you can’t watch at Swedish cinemas yet, Cinemateket offers viewers the opportunity to learn more about film history. Make sure to check their program as it contains something for all ages.
Despite Stockholm’s old cinemas, recently built venues also exist around the city. If you’re planning to spend your day shopping at the Mall of Scandinavia then I would recommend you to go to Filmstaden Scandinavia, a cinema with 15 modern auditoriums one of which is Sweden’s first IMAX, equipped with the latest sound and image technology making your visit to the movies a full cinematic experience.