ABBA recorded at the Rivoli cinema...or did they?

Published November 11, 2016

At first glance, the picture to the left in the attached montage looks very familiar, doesn't it? Of course, it's ABBA's Polar Music Studio on a wintry Stockholm day. But hang on... there's something not quite right... Why does it say RIVOLI above the entrance, and those posters on either side of it, what are they doing there?

This picture was actually taken in late 1934 or early 1935 and shows us what the premises were originally used for. The building was known as Sportpalatset ("The Sports Palace"), a large complex of which the Rivoli cinema was a part (this cinema belonged to a chain known as the Ri cinemas: you guessed it: the cinema/stage area in Benny Andersson's Rival complex was once also a part of that chain). On this winter's day back in the mid-1930s, the cinema was showing the Katharine Hepburn movie Christopher Strong. The picture of ABBA was taken almost exactly 44 years later, in December 1978, as part of promotion for the studio. So until the studio finally closed on 1 January 2005, there was always something connected to show business and entertainment going on there.

It's been fascinating putting together the story of Polar Music Studio for the revised and expanded edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. It's got a quite interesting back story, which I don't think I've fully grasped until now. The wonderful Lennart Östlund - employed as engineer shortly before the studio opened in 1978, and today literally the person that is Polar Studios - gave me an extensive interview that filled in many blanks for me and made the story come alive. Can't wait to share it with you all!

The Polar Music Studio story is just one of many revelatory aspects of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, which you can pre-order here:

And remember: everyone who pre-orders before 1 December will have their names automatically listed as a contributor in the book!


Forty-five years after opening as the Rivoli cinema in 1933, the premises turned into Polar Music Studio.