Culture Guide for Expats
While there are often delays in bringing Hollywood films into the country, these are far less dramatic than they used to be. You can expect most blockbuster films to make it onto the circuit a few weeks after their original release, with simultaneous releases for highly anticipated films.
Nu Metro, Ster Kinekor and Cinema Nouveau
There are two major chains of cinema in South Africa, Ster Kinekor and Nu Metro, both of which have, for many years, been the primary distributors of videos and DVD’s to local video stores. They’re two essentially commercial chains, with little beyond branding to separate them. Their cinemas range up from two to three screens in small malls to as many as twenty (as is the case with the Canal Walk Nu Metro, the biggest cinema in the city). They play blockbuster movies with the occasional local feature, including alternative and foreign films if they have any screens left over.
Ster Kinekor has branched out somewhat with its chain of Cinema Nouveau movie houses. These are often situated in the same malls as mainstream Ster Kinekor cineplexes, and play foreign and alternative films along with some mainstream features. Films usually play at times staggered to be half an hour later than Ster Kinekor’s blockbuster pictures.
All these cinemas offer online booking through their websites and, typically, have swipe-action booths that let moviegoers collect their tickets without waiting in long queues. Nu Metro has even introduced automated tellers to some of its branches.
For Nu Metro: Visit http://www.numetro.co.za and use the ‘select a cinema’ option to find your nearest branch. Alternatively, call 0861 24636.
For Ster Kinekor or Cinema Nouveau: Visit http://www.sterkinekor.com. While the site doesn’t have a cinema locator, if you use the booking process (i.e. select a movie to book for) you’ll be presented with the list of cinemas in your area to choose from. Alternatively, call 082 16789.
The Labia on Orange
This is the only independent cinema in Cape Town. It was the ballroom of the Italian Embassy before Princess Labia had it converted into a live performance theatre in 1949. About thirty years ago it entered its most recent incarnation, as a four-screen alternative circuit showing art house and foreign films far more obscure and unusual than the big cinema chains would tackle. The Labia maintains ties with the local academic community, screening graduate films for AFDA film students.
Aside from its old-fashioned, Victorian décor, one good reason to visit the Labia is its coffee bar, which serves a variety of baked goods and alcoholic beverages (a far cry from the fare of mainstream cinema canteens).
The Labia also has a newer, slightly less congenial branch (with two screens) located in the nearby Lifestyles on Kloof Centre.
Labia on Orange: 68 Orange Street, Gardens, Cape Town
Labia on Kloof: 1st Floor, Lifestyles on Kloof, 50 Kloof Street
Call 021 424 5927 or visit http://www.labia.co.za.
Computicket provides booking services for virtually all local cinema and theatre performances, along with most concerts and events.
Visit http://www.computicket.com or call 083 915 8000.
There are numerous DVD chains in the country, most of which charge between R10 and R20 per night for rentals. Mr. Video has the most stores, and tends to stock large numbers of recent blockbusters with a limited, somewhat random mix of older and classic films.
Visit http://www.mrvideo.co.za and use the store locator to find your nearest branch. Alternatively, call 021 948 5396.
There are a few other video stores worth mentioning for their exceptional film selections:
Pyramid Video Library
This Cape Town staple has been around for decades, and offers a massive assortment of new and classic DVD’s and VHS tapes.
255 Main Road, Sea Point
Visit http://www.pyramidvideo.co.za/ or call 021 439 5392
This is a wonderful store pitched at the true film enthusiast, known for stocking the widest array of classic, art, documentary, gay interest and foreign films in Cape Town. Its sister store in Sandton, the Absolutely Fabulous Video Store, has an even wider selection. DVD Nouveau promises to ship any film found on the Absolutely Fabulous website (http://www.abfabonline.co.za) to Cape Town free of charge.
166 Bree Street (on the corner of Bloem Street), Cape Town CBD
Call 021-4224984 or visit http://www.dvdnouveau.co.za
Open Hours: 10:00 to 20:00, Monday through Saturday, and 11:00 to 20:00 on Sundays
DVD’s are primarily sold through major music stores such as Musica and Look&Listen.
Look&Listen: Use the store locator (http://www.lookandlisten.co.za/storelocator/) to find your nearest branch, or call 011 467 3717.
Musica: Use the store locator (http://www.musica.co.za/eMusica/store.asp) or call 0860 68 7422.
Two of Cape Town’s theatres, the Artscape Theatre (formerly the Nico Malan) and the Baxter, are truly world-class establishments, each with halls capable of seating well over a thousand people. Below are their details along with those of a couple of smaller, less trafficked but nonetheless charming and worthwhile theatres. Showings at the big theatres are usually advertised via fliers and street posters alongside major thoroughfares.
http://www.whatson.co.za offers excellent coverage of all the latest shows and events in virtually every entertainment category, with constantly updated listings for new films, musical performances and theatrical productions. Use the Quick Search function to filter listings by date and category.
The Baxter Theatre
Established in 1960, the spectacular Baxter building has its back to Main Road, Rondebosch and its front on the lower end of UCT’s middle Campus, home to its prestigious Law and Drama faculties. It’s probably the most popular theatre in Cape Town, and hosts numerous festivals every year, including the International Comedy Festival.
Visit http://www.baxter.co.za for information on the latest productions, or call 021 685 7880 for further enquiries.
Housed in the massive, striking Nico Theatre Centre, the Artscape building is the best appointed in Cape Town, with a 1145 seat opera house and a 540 seat theatre. The building also holds a 120 seat arena and a 100 seat cabaret venue. It’s located on DF Malan Street in the Foreshore area of the CBD.
Theatre on the Bay
With just under 240 seats, this gorgeous theatre is home to a cocktail bar and restaurant (the Act 1 Theatre Café) overlooking Camps Bay beachfront, and plays host to numerous popular local acts. It’s situated at 1A Link Street (just off Victoria Road).
Call 021 438 3301 or visit http://www.theatreonthebay.co.za for details of current productions.
One of those rare finds that can be unpatronizingly described as ‘small’ and ‘intimate’, Muizenberg’s 174 seat Masque Theatre is home to a number of amateur dramatic societies, and shows live musicals, dance performances, seminars, presentations and films. It’s accessibly positioned at number 37 Main Road (on the M4), at the entrance to Muizenberg.
Call 021 788 1898 for more information.
Computicket: Aside from bookings, computicket provides updates and news on all the big local events. Visit http://www.computicket.co.za or call 083 915 8000.
http://www.whatson.co.za has some of the most comprehensive listings of upcoming theatrical events across the country.
http://www.capetowntoday.co.za also offers extensive listings of upcoming performances.
Alternatively, the Next 48 Hours, a slim, newspaper-style publication available from most newsagents every Friday, provides comprehensive reviews of cinema releases, along with timetables for the different cinemas around Cape Town. You can view the guide online at http://www.48hours.co.za.