Cape Town has a long history with movie cinemas. While the interest in going to a movie house may be fading, the love for these stand-alone cinemas endured for much of the 1900s. For those who were around, memories of these buildings and the fun had at the flicks still endures.

Here are some of the city’s long lost cinemas.

1. The British Bioscope

The British Bioscope opened in the 1920s in the bustling neighbourhood of District Six. Situated on Caledon Street, the first talkies (or talking pictures) in the city were screened here in 1932. Sadly, it was demolished with much of the area under the Group Areas Act enforced by the Apartheid government.

2. The Odeon Cinema 

Credit: Unknown

Opened in 1940, The Odeon in Sea Point was part of the Western Province Cinemas (Pty) Ltd. chain. It was the first cinema to be fully air-conditioned, a luxury in Cape Town’s summer heat. In the 70s it joined the Ster Cinemas chain and was renovated and renamed Kine Elite. It was eventually closed in the 1990s and the building demolished.

3. The Alhambra Theatre

Credit: Ken Roe

Considered South Africa’s best Atmospheric-style theatre, the Alhambra Theatre opened in 1929 on Riebeek Street. It serves as one of the city’s main theatres and was able to seat almost 2000 people. It housed a Wurlitzer 2Manual/8Ranks theatre pipe organ which was moved to the Artscape Theatre, Cape Town in 1998.

The theatre closed its doors in 1972 and the building was demolished in 1974.

4. The Roxy

The Roxy was found in Longmarket street and opened its doors in the mid-1930s. While many now may think the new cinemas offering food are novel, The Roxy did it first. Called a Bio-Cafe, movie-watchers were served refreshments during the film. The Roxy held out for a while as cinema trends changes, closing in 1995.

5. The Colosseum

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The Colosseum was a massive Art Deco building which took up a block along Riebeek street and St George’s Mall. Part of the facade can still be seen, as a Clicks makes up part of the bottom floor, though most of the original building was demolished. It opened its doors in 1938 and closed its doors to be converted to shops in the 1970s. It used to have 1 000 seats.

6. The Metro Theatre 

It seems town was packed with cinemas. The Metro was found on St George’s Mall though when it was originally built in 1932 it was called The Plaza Cinema. Much like its fellow city centre cinemas, it was closed and demolished in the late 1970s.

7. Funlands Drive-In 

Funlands Drive-In was Cape Town’s biggest ever drive-in cinema. It opened in the 1970s on Swartklip Road and had one big screen and a maximum of 1 300 cars. The area would later be developed into what it Mitchell’s Plain today. Once Funlands closed in the 1980s, it became part of the new suburb’s residential area.

8. Bijou Theatre 

Credit: Ken Roe

The Bijou Theatre’s exterior is one of the few still standing. Found on Lower Main Road in Observatory, it opened in 1941. In 1995 an explosion and fire ravaged most of the building, although it had already stopped working as a cinema by that time. More recently, it has been used as an art gallery, blacksmith and for special events.

9. The City Bioscope

One of the longest running cinemas in the city, the City Bioscope opened in the 1910s on what is now Sir Lowry Road. In 1932 it was renovated and updated with the changing times. It finally closed in the 1950s and was demolished. The Good Hope Centre parking lot is now on the site.

10. Adelphi Cinema 

Credit: AitchTee

The Adelphi Kinema on Main Road in Sea Point opened in 1930. It housed the cinema, a restaurant, tearoom and children’s nursery. While the cinema closed in the early 1980s, many came to know the building as the Adelphi Shopping Centre which was recently renovated and renamed the Artem.

11. The Empire Theatre 


The Empire Theatre on Muizenberg beachfront opened in 1941. With stalls and circle seating and an art deco style, The Empire was a great compliment to the beach front. It closed in the mid-1970s and had become derelict into the 2000s. Recently, the building has been renovated into holiday apartments with stores along the bottom, luckily the beautiful facade and title “Empire” still remain.

12. Goodwood Drive-in 

Another drive-in but this one lasted a bit longer. Set-up in the 1960s, Goodwood Drive-in was the city’s fourth drive-in cinema. Next to the Cape Show Grounds, it could host 1066 cars. It closed in the 1990s and is now the site of Grand West Casino.

13. The Savoy

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The Savoy Cinema in Rosebank was built in 1937. The beautiful building was renovated and renamed a few times over its lifetime as a cinema. First as The Savoy, then as the Cinerama in the 60s and finally Constantia Rosebank in 1982. It officially closed as a cinema in 2008.

14. The Palace Theatre 

Found in Salt River on the corner of Spencer Road, The Palace Theatre opened in the 1920s and the first sound film was screened in the 1930s. It closed in the 1990s and the building now houses commercial businesses.

Source: Cinema Treasures 


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