Iceland’s Last Dedicated Video-Rental Store Closes

Video-rental store

At the end of the month, Iceland’s last dedicated video-rental store*, Aðalvideoleigan in downtown Reykjavík, will close. The owner of the store hopes to sell as much of his collection to “finance the losses accrued over the past two years.”

A kind of institution among local filmmakers

In a Facebook post published yesterday, Reynir Maríuson, known more familiarly as Aðal-Reynir, announced that he would be closing Aðalvideoleigan – “the last dedicated video-rental store in Iceland” – located on Klapparstígur in downtown Reykjavík.

“Starting tomorrow, March 10, there will be an incredible selection of DVD titles for sale, from all over the world and from all genres. Now do me one last favour, dear friends, and share this post – and come help me close so that I can offset some of the losses that have accumulated over the past two years.”

As noted in an interview with Reynir from 2017, Aðalvideoleigan’s collection boasts nearly 30,000 titles. Reynir has been around the store for more than three decades. In a brief interview with Iceland Review today, IR inquired if it was accurate that Aðalvideoleigan had been founded in 1984. Reynir replied that there was no consensus regarding the exact date: “Ownership has changed hands over the years, but I’ve been around the store for something like 30 years.”

During his time at Aðalvideoleigan, Reynir observed that he had met “a lot of great people;” the store has served as something of a university for Icelandic film enthusiasts. In 2014, director Ragnar Bragason told a reporter from Monitor that Aðalvideoleigan had had a huge impact on his work: “I’ve often said that Aðalvideoleigan on Klapparstígur was my film school. I was a daily guest of the store for many years – and it was where I imbibed the history of film.”

When asked about its connection to the Icelandic film scene, Reynir maintained that most of the filmmakers in the country had, at some point, been patrons of the store: “There’s no Icelandic director – aside from, perhaps, the very young – who weren’t raised in Aðalvideoleigan.”

Saddened by the prospect

Reynir – obviously saddened by the fact that he was forced to close Aðalvideoleigan, and sell off at least part of the collection to offset the losses – rued the fact that many film enthusiasts had turned to streaming: “It’s sad that this cultural institution is being closed. And there’s no one there to keep it open. I also find it a bit odd how quickly all of the highbrow types migrated to streaming services.”

Numerous patrons expressed their sadness on Facebook at the prospect of Aðalvideoleigan closing. According to Aðalvideoleigan’s Facebook page, the store is open every day from 3 to 11.30 PM. Those interested can swing by and purchase DVDs to support Aðalvideoleigan.

*As noted in an article in Austurfrétt from January, a video-rental store is still being operated in Eskifjörður, East Iceland, although that store also vends vaping and tobacco products.

Rio Tinto to Review Future of ISAL Smelter

ISAL aluminium smelter

According to a press release published this morning, Rio Tinto – one of the world’s largest metals and mining corporations – will conduct a strategic review of its ISAL smelter (situated just outside Hafnafjörður) to determine the operation’s “ongoing viability and explore options to improve its competitive position.”

500 Employees

Aluminium production at the ISAL (The Icelandic Aluminium Company) smelter began in 1969. The smelter currently employs roughly 500 people. Rio Tinto had previously reduced the smelter’s capacity to 85 per cent, owing to a lack of profitability.

In a press release this morning, Rio Tinto (which is the sole owner of ISAL) expects ISAL to remain, “unprofitable in the short to medium term in the challenging conditions facing the aluminium industry, due to the smelter’s uncompetitive energy costs and historically low aluminium prices.”

Rio Tinto will continue discussions with the Government of Iceland and the utility company Landsvirkjun (which provides power for the smelter) on how the smelter can return to profitability and become competitive in the global market. The corporation is considering all options in its strategic review (expected to be completed during the first half of 2020), “including curtailment and closure.”

The press release quotes Rio Tinto Aluminium chief executive Alf Barrios: “We have worked intensively to improve ISAL’s performance, however, it is currently unprofitable and cannot compete in the challenging market conditions due to its high power costs.”

Rio Tinto adds that it aims to work closely with stakeholders who have a shared interest in the smelter’s future, including the government, Landsvirkjun, employees, unions, and the local community.

Taken Aback by the News

In an interview earlier today, Reinhold Richter – principal union representative for ISAL employees – told Vísir that the news of the smelter’s possible closure had taken employees by surprise. The staff needs to “sleep on it,” Reinhold told Vísir.

A new wage agreement with ISAL has been drafted by the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA); however, SA and ISAL’s team of negotiators have not bee given permission to sign the agreement by Rio Tinto.

“Solemn News,” Says the Mayor

Vísir also spoke to Mayor of Hafnarfjörður Rósa Guðbjartsdóttir, who was apprehensive.

“[ISAL] is one of the largest employers in town. It has operated for decades and it means a lot to the entire community. It’s not only a large and pleasant place of work, but it has also had a synergistic effect on other companies in town.”