The Labia Theatre turns 70

Posted on 22 May 2019

The oldest independent art cinema in the country, the Labia Theatre, turned 70 years old last week.

The Cape Town theatre celebrated its birthday and the arts with a surprise screening of Rocketman, the soon-to-be-released biographical musical film based on the life of British musician Elton John.

The Labia Theatre ‘has been operating as a cinema on the alternative circuit appealing mainly to the more discerning viewer who enjoys its quality product and the charm of its old-world ambience’ since the 1970s.

It prides itself as the home of ‘cult, class and art movies, with a smattering of box office hit’, according to its website.

The long-time owner Ludi Kraus has strived to keep its authentic features in pristine condition. The ticket booth, sweet counter and (re-padded) seats have all been kept much as they have been since the 1940s.

But, some upgrades have been necessary. It has converted to digital projection and upgraded its facilities by adding three more screens, a bar and a terrace. Yes, moviegoers can take their Slush Puppy cocktail into the theatre with them!

However, the theatre started its life as something quite different.

It is rumoured to have originally been the home of the Italian Embassy’s ballroom. In 1949, the ballroom was converted into a theatre.

The Italian Princess Labia opened it as a theatre for live performances in 1949, but by the 1970s films took centre stage.

Tickets are a mere R50 per person (R40 for students) and various restaurants in the area have collaborated with the theatre to offer meal and theatre ticket discount deals.


Featured image: Labia Theatre.

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