Google 'Labia' and cinemas won't be top of the list. But despite the kinky name, the Mother City's oldest independent cinema isn't that kind of cinema.
Most Capetonians have fond childhood memories of going to the Labia to watch ET, Bambi or The Aristocats. The grand dame, with her wood-panelled walls and vintage ticket booth seems simply magical; a last remnant of cinema's golden age. Where else can you still buy your popcorn packaged in a brown paper bag? Or get your chocolate fix in the form of a steaming mug of whisky-spiked cocoa? And then there's the quality programming, of course.
Originally, this voluptuously curved building was the plush ballroom of the Italian Embassy. Princess Labia had other plans for it, and in 1949 opened the space as a theatre. A cinema screen followed in the '70s, and for the next few years the venue played host to both film screenings and theatre performances. When current owner Ludi Kraus bought it in 1989, the Labia as we know it today was born. But the years had taken their toll on our favourite starlet. 'It was very run-down at that stage,' recalls Kraus. Luckily for us the theatre was lovingly given a new lease of life, and three screens were added.
These days the cinema is at the centre of Cape Town's independent film culture. On a Friday night the tables spilling out on to the courtyard are abuzz with wine-wielding film buffs, winding down the week with an independent flick. It hosts regular festivals on topics ranging from slasher movies to Judaism. Eye-opening documentaries accompanied by Q&A sessions with experts are also on the menu.
The city's best-loved independent movie house has come a long way since her waltzing days and her charms have stood the test of time. Do drop by next time you're in the neighbourhood. It sure beats the gaudy glare of the mall. And if you want better screen resolution and sound, simply head up around the corner to the Kloof Street baby sister.
Other locations Lifestyles on Kloof Centre, 50 Kloof Street, Gardens.