The arts continually evolve by necessity and, even of mass-produced, commercial and consumerist artistic productions such as movies, our viewing practices evolve along with them.
Also, as the cinema continues to develop away from historic production centres such as Hollywood, and the attitudes and aesthetics of modern filmmakers develop in similarly independent and divergent ways, moviegoers are increasingly looking to alternative, accessible, and independent ways of viewing the movies now being produced (as well as those that have come before).
In South Africa, the two main distributors and exhibitors of movies are Ster Kinekor and Nu Metro, whose theatres are in most main centres across the country. Their marketing campaigns and huge scales ensure them a market of viewers for most big productions coming out of Hollywood.
Below is a list of alternative moviegoing venues in South Africa for viewers who wish to support local exhibitors and get a chance to see the more idiosyncratic works on offer. (Of course, by numbers alone, their main rivals are online platforms, such as Netflix and Showmax, and free alternatives.
But these are also large international distribution and exhibition systems that don’t need any further introduction or explanation here.)
The Bioscope (Johannesburg)
The Bioscope is perhaps the most famous and most popular of alternative venues. It is located in the buzzy Maboneng district of the Johannesburg CBD, among Instagrammable restaurants, art galleries, and artisanal food and drink markets.
Regular events include Ugly Cry Night (showcasing hits such as “Titanic” and “My Girl”), Valentine’s Day romances, Christmas marathons (of entire series such as “Star Wars,” “The Lord of the Rings,” and “Back to the Future”), Noodlebox Cinema (playing Kung Fu action movies and serving noodles from a neighbourhood restaurant), Classic Movie Sundays, Le Movie Club (in collaboration with The Alliance Française of Johannesburg and the French Institute of South Africa), and Noche Española (presented together with the Embassy of Spain in Pretoria).
They also screen new South African works, a wide variety of short films, international documentaries, and a host of other enticing selections.
The Labia (Cape Town)
Certainly the largest of the venues on this list, the Labia hosts four theatres and screens much of the selection also offered by SterKinekor’s Cinema Nouveau chain.
The building in Gardens, above the Cape Town CBD, has a long history and is sumptuously designed and decorated.
The Labia’s website includes details of promotions and special offers available to moviegoers who visit it.
Molo Mollo (Pretoria)
This is not a permanent screening venue, but a series of occasions for which viewing facilities are erected on the rooftop of a tower in the Pretoria CBD.
Exactly which rooftop may change from time to time, so it’s best to check the Facebook page of each new event they announce.
Casterbridge Cinema (White River)
This independently owned theatre is well known and loved across the lowveld for its selection of arthouse favourites that it screens in revival.
The added luxury of good food and wine to accompany a moviegoer’s cinematic experience. Regular programmes include movie club events and children’s classics.
Not only is Sunshine Cinema not a venue – unlike Molo Mollo, it doesn’t even screen movies in the same location.
A special mobile solar-powered screening room, the Sunshine Cinema is part of an initiative of exhibitors who go around the country and visit rural communities, showing them local features and documentaries for entertainment and education.
Sunshine Cinema recently appeared at the first Indie Karoo Film Festival in Prince Albert, and continues a programme of community upliftment across several provinces.
The Pink Flamingo Rooftop Cinema (Cape Town)
The Pink Flamingo Rooftop Cinema is on the roof of the Grand Daddy Hotel, on Long Street. The luxurious night out includes drinks (and sparkling wine to be shared with special companions) and fine dining.
The movie selection is generally of past favourites, for a most comfortable and relaxing event.
Let us know of any other favourite alternative venues you may know of in the comments!
About the Author: Jared is a Stoic, Trotskyist bardolater, PBHS Old Boy, movie blogger, Calvin and Hobbes fan, and actuarial analyst from Pretoria.
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