The Labia Theatre is the oldest art house cinema operating in South Africa. Here’s why you should go catch a movie at this charming old dame.

When I lived in the city bowl many years ago, The Labia Theatre was a highlight of my week. I would walk down to the cinema on a Sunday afternoon and end my weekend in front of the big screen watching an art movie while munching on popcorn out of a paper packet. I no longer live in town, but I still like to visit this historic movie house on a regular basis.

The Labia Theatre is a charming old dame and she has continued over the years to stand her ground against developers while keeping her regular patrons entertained. Plus she’s had a revamp and now has an impressive entrance and outdoor seating under canvas. I personally love the creeper and flower-filled entrance archway and the myriad of potted plants!

Tickets are R60 (you buy these in advance from Webtickets) and for just over R100 you can enjoy a movie with a beer and a packet of freshly-popped popcorn.  It really does make for a perfect Saturday or Sunday afternoon excursion! Here’s why…

1. The Labia Theatre has history

It is the oldest art house cinema operating in South Africa. The building was originally built as an opulent ballroom for the Italian Embassy and in 1949 Princess Labia converted the ballroom into a theatre for live performances. The Labia Theatre was then converted into a cinema in the 1960s.

2. It’s not a commercial movie house in a mall

There are only four screens, with the largest having a seating capacity of 176 people. There’s a small café for drinks and snacks and only one popcorn machine, operated by the same lady for all the time I have been frequenting this spot (that’s over 20 years). Plus those lovely red drapes give an extra yesteryear feel!

3. You can buy alcoholic drinks at the bar

While there is a good selection of both hot and cold drinks, you are not restricted to slush puppies and coca cola at this cinema! You can have a beer, a cider, a glass of wine or a shot of Amarula in your coffee. And you can take it into the cinema with you too!

4. There’s popcorn, pies and quiche

No movie for me is complete with popcorn, but if you aren’t a fan like me, then you have choices that are more interesting than sweets and chocolate, such as a pie or a quiche.

5. They mostly show art house movies

Whilst you will find the odd commercial film on their screening list, most of the movies here are of the more arty and alternative kind. These films win awards at the Sundance Festival rather than at The Oscars! They also host movie festivals, such as the HorrorFest where you can watch some classic horror flicks.

6. There’s a courtyard where smokers can puff away

If you are a smoker, you’ll be pleased to know that you are welcome to sit at one of the tables in their pretty, shady courtyard and have a cigarette before going in for your movie. Even if you don’t smoke, the courtyard is a great place to wait for your friends to arrive or to just enjoy some peace before or after the movie – with a glass of wine of course!

7. The Labia Theatre is fully COVID19 compliant

You are required to wear a mask when you enter the premises and to sanitise your hands. You will need to fill out a form with your basic details so give yourself at least an extra 15 minutes to do this and to get your snacks and drinks. In order to allow for social distancing, the cinemas have selected seats with a sheet of white paper on them which should not be sat on.

However, if you are concerned about being exposed to COVID19 but still want to support The Labia Theatre, you can opt for the Labia Home Screen, their online movie service. A movie costs R60 and you can watch it from the comfort of your own home.

To be honest, going to a commercial cinema holds very little appeal for me these days, but I happily go to The Labia Theatre on a regular basis. I hope you will do the same! If we want to keep a place like The Labia Theatre open for future generations to enjoy, we need to support her.

Visit to see the movie schedule and to book tickets.

Published November 2020 | Own cost