Pools, Gyms, and Bars to Reopen, Within Limits


Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason has proposed a series of relaxations to the current gathering bans and closures of public spaces to the Minister of Health. His recommendations include relaxed provisions for swimming pools on May 18, as well as gyms and bars and restaurants on May 25.

When swimming pools reopen this coming Monday, they will be subject to capped capacity of 200 people at a time, or half the regular capacity. In so far as it is possible, guests are asked to maintain a distance of two meters from one another.

Gyms will reopen a week later and will also be subject to half-capacity caps. Guests are similarly asked to maintain a two-meter distance from one another when possible. It is hoped that pools and gyms will be able to return to full capacity by June 15, the date on which Iceland hopes to open its borders to travellers again, but Þórolfur emphasizes that this will very much depend on there not being a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the country. During Thursday’s press conference, Þórolfur noted that there are currently no patients being hospitalized for COVID-19 in Iceland, and May has only seen four new confirmed cases of COVID-19, despite extensive testing.

In addition to gyms reopening on May 25, Þórolfur has also recommended that bars, restaurants, and other social spaces be reopened at the same time. These places would be subject to the same two-meter distancing rules, as much as possible. May 25 would also see the gathering ban be relaxed and would allow 200 people to gather in the same place. Currently, a max of 50 people can be in the same place at the same time; at the height of the crisis, gatherings were limited to 20 or fewer.



Disney Puts ‘Final Nail in the Coffin’ of Iceland’s DVD Market

The recent announcement that there will not be an Icelandic-dubbed DVD edition of Frozen 2 is the death knell of the once-booming DVD market in Iceland, RÚV reports. According to Þorvaldur Árnason, the managing director of Samfilm, the distribution arm of the Sambíó theatre chain, Disney will no longer be releasing DVDs in smaller markets as it turns its focus to VOD rental platforms, a decision which Þorvaldur says signals the ‘the final nail in the coffin of DVDs and their releases in Iceland.’

Major foreign animated films generally screen in local movie theatres with Icelandic dubbing, but if Icelandic-language DVDs are not subsequently released, this could mean that Icelandic-speaking fans may have a long wait before they can watch the Icelandic version of the movie again. Streaming rights have to be negotiated for each film—Frozen 2, for instance, is currently available via the services offered by local telecom companies Síminn and Vodafone. However, if titles are restricted to specific streaming platforms, this could create delays for viewers after a movie leaves the theatre. Case in point: Disney now has its own streaming service, Disney+, but this platform is not yet available in Iceland and it is uncertain when it will make its debut in the country.

DVD (and before that VHS) rental was, for a long time, a mainstay of Icelandic culture, but like everywhere, the rise of streaming services and downloadable content has steadily chipped away at the local market. In 2015, Laugarásvídeó, Iceland’s largest video and DVD store, closed, with owner Gunnar Jósefsson citing the significant decrease in the number of films released with Icelandic subtitles as a primary factor in the closure. “There used to be 30-50 films released per month but now it’s more like ten,” Gunnar told Iceland Review at the time. Then, just last year, Iceland’s largest electronics chain, Elko, announced that it would no longer be selling DVDs.

While the DVD market is on the decline in Iceland, Þorvaldur says he believes Frozen 2 still would have sold well in the country. People can obviously still buy the DVD abroad, but without Icelandic dubbing, this really isn’t a practical or preferable option for parents with young children. In addition, he says, there are still collectors in Iceland who want to own movies on DVD, even if many homes no longer have a DVD player at all.

Icelanders tend to be early adopters, says Þorvaldur, which may have brought about a premature end to the local DVD market. “We Icelanders are so incredibly quick to switch over to new technologies that the market just collapsed here,” he remarked. “There is still a DVD market in the UK and in Germany and other large countries, but we’re so quick to adapt to new things.”

Will Ferrell Presents Iceland’s ‘Douze Points’ in At-Home Eurovision Broadcast

Had COVID-19 not intervened, Eurovision would have been held in Rotterdam this week, an event made all the more exciting because Iceland’s Daði Freyr and Gagnamagnið were strongly favoured to win. Iceland still found a way to celebrate the occasion, however, with a live Eurovision party on Thursday night featuring none other than Will Ferrell, RÚV reports.

Called ‘Okkar 12 stig’ (‘Our 12 Points’), the event gave Icelanders the opportunity to celebrate their favourite 15 songs from this year’s competition and then call in to determine which song would have gotten Iceland’s full twelve points (or, ‘douze points,’ in French, as those familiar with the song competition’s multilingual points announcement system would have it). Ferrell, who is playing an Icelandic Eurovision contestant alongside Rachel McAdams in a forthcoming Netflix movie, was given the honour of announcing Iceland’s top song for 2020: “Fai Rumore,” by Italy’s Diodato.

The event also featured a montage of all the times Iceland has been awarded 12 points by another country in Eurovision and Hatari’s Klemens Hannigan performing a subdued and distinctly un-Hatari rendition of the winning song from last year’s Eurovision: “Arcade,” by Duncan Laurence of The Netherlands



The evening closed with a rousing performance of Daði Freyr and Gagnamagnið’s “Think About Things,” which included cameo appearances by actor Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson (Game of Thrones, The Innocents), members of parliament, and none other than President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson and First Lady Eliza Reid.

Diodato sent his thanks to Iceland via video, saying, “Hello, Iceland, thank you so much for your support. I hope to see you soon. We’ll have to stand naked under a waterfall and spread the love. Ciao.”

You can watch the full broadcast on RÚV here.