Happy 70th to the Labia #Labia70

Wonderful to be at The Labia, last night (May 19, 2019), at the awesome birthday party, celebrating the Labia’s 70th birthday. Fabulous spread, music and people.

The Labia Cinema is regarded as the oldest independent art-repertory cinema in South Africa. It did not start as a cinema. The building was opened in May 1949 by the Italian Embassy, by Countess Labia as a ballroom/theatre for the staging live performance. (The countess, Ida Robinson was a South African woman – daughter of mining magnate, Sir JB Robinson. She married Count Natale Labia. He was an Italian who joined the Italian Foreign Service in 1906 and was transferred to Johannesburg, in 1918 as Italian consul and then he met Ida.)

In 1989, Ludi and Ann Kraus came on board and the Labia Cinema began. Ludi’s father ran the Alhambra Cinema in Windhoek from 1961 for about 30 years, so he was immersed in the industry from a young age.

Ludi and Ann have built up a vibrant cinema which feels like a theatre. Cannot recall the last time, we went to cinema in a mall. It is interesting to see how the audience mix has changed over the years. It used to be students but it is all ages now.

Years ago, The Labia was largely Art House and now we get the new releases as they come out. Last night, at the 70th, the surprise film of the night was Rocketman – the biopic musical inspired by Elton John’s life. Rocketman premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 16. Here we are – May 19 and we have the film on our screens in Africa at our beloved Labia.

Rocketman tracks Elton John’s early life (disconnected father, awful mother, fabulous grandmother), his development as a music maker, lifelong collaboration with wordsmith Bernie Taupin, battle with substance abuse, identity/sexuality, love, relationships. It’s a sweet, tender film – evoking old style film musicals where protagonists break out into song. A bit long but lovely insights into his life. I knew about Elton’s classical music training (Royal Academy of Music) but had no idea that he was a major success at the age of 23. It is directed by Dexter Fletcher and written by Lee Hall.

Back to the #Labia70. There are four screens. It is a heritage building, filled with charm. The seats in Screen 1 are comfy but some seats in other screens are not great, so take a cushion. Terrace with urban garden, eats. Popcorn, vodka slushies, Gluehwein. At the opening, a short film #labia70 by @yazeedkamaldien was screened and special mention was made to the Gluehwein – that German/Swiss fans from Europe say it is better than at home.

Salute to Ludi and Ann Kraus, Michael Berkel and Rose Nhlapo and team Labia for making this our film home. Booking essential for new releases.

Address: 68 Orange Street
Cape Town, Western Cape 8001
Info: 021 424 5927
Hours: 11am-10.30pm
Bookings: Webtickets or at door.

Tickets: currently R50 at Webtickets. Student and concessions at box office only. Members of Fanatics (Exclusive Books loyalty club), pay R40 at box office. Movie/food deals available. Enquire at box office or see website