28 Responses

  1. Stan Dixon
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    Fascinated reading about the old Durban cinemas, especially the Princes where at Age 10 I remember seeing the Paul Whiteman film “King of Jazz” including Bing Crosby’s launch. He was booked to sing one of the numbers “Song of the Dawn” but was too drunk so John Boles stepped in!

    Born in 167 Avondale Road Durban in 1920, our favourite Saturday morning activity was to visit the old Greyville Bioscope – tin roof, sandy floor and all that – watching, among other B and W shorts, the antics of cowboy Tom Mix and his white horse Tony. With a wonderful lady at the piano her the screen belting out a tune to match the action! The film of course, was a serial so we were, in a way, a captive audience so we just had to return each week to see if Tom survived the shoot-out with the villain all for two old pence a time! I recall during the interval a guy stood up front reflecting a beam of light into a lucky customers face who then stood up and won a bag of sweets! I
    attended DPHS – all cut too short when my family upsticks and we all sailed away to the UK. Wonderful childhood in Durban I have to say!

    Stan Dixon

  2. Gerald Buttigieg
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    Hi Stan
    Welcome to FAD. We don’t have too many nonagenarians around so you are especially welcome. Well the Avenue Cinema I remember from about 1955. My aunt lived in Stamford Hill Road and the bus used to pass the Avenue which was in First Avenue near the Queens Tavern Bar. The Avenue was a hulk then and had stopped operating but the building remained. Actually that part of Greyville was rather run down by then and eventually all of it was torn down and changed into a shopping centre where Game Store is today.
    I looked up 167 Avondale Road in my 1938 Durban Directory and all it says
    is VACANT. So that is all I can say is that in 1938 it was standing empty. In 1968, a Portuguese gentleman Mr de Almeida was living there. Please add your other memories they must surely be most interesting.

  3. pat sligo
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    Hi there Gerald.
    Your Durban research is quite astonishing, and especially noteworthy for you to research your findings wherever possible!
    May I offer a little help with the Kings theatre you mention.
    It was on the right hand side of Aliwal St walking away from the Metro and 20th Century, and either between Smith and West, or West and Pine Streets, – I think it was the latter, if I remember correctly.
    It was smaller than the other two cinemas mentioned.
    Also, please don’t forget in your listing in the 1950’s, there were two tea room cinemas with films being shown non-stop where you had a mineral or ice cream included in the ticket price.
    One was the Roxy on the right side of West St heading for the Berea – it was near Payne Brothers somewhere, and the other was diagonally opposite the old main railway station in Pine Street near a bicycle shop, but can’t think of the name offhand – at a guess it might have been the Empire.
    They were cheap cinemas where you could sit down on any seat at any time, and attached to the back of the seats in front of you, was a continuous narrow table-cum-tray, to place the refreshment of your choice, served by a waitress.
    You left when you liked.

  4. Gerald Buttigieg
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    Hi Pat
    Thanks for the compliment. Always interesting to be able to fill in the detail. The Kings Theatre in Aliwal Street was before my time but from what I can gather it stood where King’s Hall stands today opposite the Old House Museum. The name would tie in.
    The two tearoom cinemas you mention were the Roxy (last time I was around there now a Jet Store) which was opposite the Colombo Tea and Coffee shop (now a Nandos) in West Street and the Oxford which was near the corner of Pine Street and Soldier’s Way, opposite the Parkade. I think the Oxford is now a Govan Mani Shop. I frequented both at some time of my youth. A third tearoom cinema was opened in the late 50s early 60s called the Capri which was in the Sanlam Building in Smith Street.
    In my time these tearoom bioscopes came to be known as “bughouses” as they were tending to be dilapidated. I must say they were popular on Saturday evenings as the dress was casual as compared to the “haute couture” of the Smith Street cinemas on Saturday nights.
    The Empire was an old movie house at the back of the Post Office in Gardiner Street.
    This and the adjoining buildings were demolished to make way for the extension of the Post Office building at the rear. Today the extension houses a large section of additional Post Office boxes in Gardiner Street (opposite the Model Dairy) and at the back a central courtyard where the incoming and out going post were loaded / unloaded.
    There is no mention of the Roxy or the Oxford in the 1938 directory so I assume that they may have been opened just after the war started when Durban was host to many troops passing through.

  5. George Askew
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    Hey guys, this is fascinating and sure brings back memories.
    In the 50s – before I was seduced by and got addicted to Spearfishing – my mates and I who lived near the Lion Match factory used to frequent the Avenue ‘bughouse’ in Greyville for the matinees – especially hoping to see serials like Superman [in a baggy one piece outfit LOL], Batman, or one of the cowboy heroes – esp The Durango Kid and The Lone Ranger; Roy Rogers was OK, but a bit wimpy, whilst we cringed if Gene Autry with all his singing in his too pretty clothes, came on.
    We would run down to Country Club beach and forage for empty cool-drink bottles for which we got 2d each for from the Indian shops at the Umgeni / Gilbert Rd intersection.
    Our target was 6 bottles each as for 1 shilling [12 pennies] we could get trolley-bus fare of 2d each way, entrance was 7d so that left 1d – which got us 4 Nutties or 2 of the big Wilsons toffies. We had a great time.
    Can you imagine today`s kids doing that?

    As I am mentioning the Princes and Avenue cinemas in my nearly finished book, does anyone have pix of the comic swapping on the Princes` steps on Saturday mornings and any pix of the Avenue?

    Thanks in advance.

  6. gerald buttigieg
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    Hi George,
    I was never into spearfishing but do recall that I used to read an article that appeared every Friday night (?) written I think by Len Jones (?). I was then, with my late Uncle a keen pier fisherman and it was good to read what was being “speared” as it gave an indication what was around fish wise. Today one hardly ever hears of the fish species that used to be well known names such as barracouta, bonito, kingfish, salmon, sea bass.

    Regarding the Avenue as I remember it as a corrugated iron building in First Avenue near the Queen’s Tavern.

    I note that you are writing a book. I think it is only fair that if you use any material taken from this website, you should contact Allan Jackson first. You do this by using CONTACT US. I think it is only fair.

  7. George Askew
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    Hi Gerald. Thanks. Of course I would get permission for anything I use [when the source is traceable].
    The weekly column was on a Thursday night and written by Ted Henley [alias Squid], not Len altho` sometimes his cartoon strips were used.

    The Avenue was brick and iron and was across the road from Queens Tavern. This I know but I cant find a pic anywhere.
    Apropos this: >>barracouta, bonito, kingfish, salmon, sea bass.<< Still plenty of `couta [altho most of us now refer to them by their international name of King / Spanish Mackerel] – being shot today but Bonito were very seldom [if ever shot]. More Kingfish [GT`s now] more than ever at Aliwal. Salmon [Kob] plenty coming out but 'Sea Bass' – if you refer to Brindle and Potatoes they have been banned [by Spearos] for a long time, however many smaller species like Malabars and Yellow Bellies get taken – but most guys today concentrate on big pelagics..

  8. rashaad khan
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    what great memories! I always wonder what life must have been like living in the 50s and 60s. Unfortunately I cannot assist in bringing back some sweet memories but im proud to say that the Royal Theatre was owned by my late grand dad Abdul Majid Khan who was also the director of the enamel factory in the middle of durban town named Royal tin smith works. thanx for your memories… really enlightening.

  9. Rodney Leak
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    Gerald, great keep it all going. On cinema page 1 you mention Lucey as the photographer. He was Dennis Lucey, who as well as being a sought after wedding photographer was a “commercial” photographer. We knew the family well. Roger (Dennis’ son) is a well known activist, musician and journalist. An uncle and two cousins with and myself appeared in a a couple of TeeSav newspaper ads shot by Dennis Lucey in the early ’60s. They were shot with us walking across the Albert Park sports field in the latest clothing offerings. I think we got paid about R12.50 each.
    Another tearoom bio was the Capri (?) in Smith Street almost opposite the Field Street end of Greenacres.

  10. Rodney Leak
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    Gerald, your informant cinema page 2 Derrick Willet, and anyone else. Does anyone have the seating capacities of the cinema strip theatres? I am doing a comparison of the then and now cinema scene.

  11. ivan john beal
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    Tommy McLennan was the organist at the Metro. I met him and had a look at the organ in the early 1950s. He was succeeded by Denis van Rooyen. i am not aware of a buster wheatley unless he came long afterwards?

  12. Moira Badstubner
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    1. The Palace was the other name for the other “continuous” “bioscope” where you received either a cold drink or an ice cream and you could sit through until you reached the place where you came in.
    2. My father was an electrician and helped fit the stars in the ceiling at the Playhouse,.
    3. I once won 2/6d at the Alhambra on a Saturday afternoon and the winners names were shown on the screen. We exchanged comics and it was a very popular place for the youth of Durban in the 1940’s.
    4. They really did show the ‘early” films. I saw “She” by Rider Haggard..what a film!!!perhaps channel 140 could also show it one day. TV 140 should show the young girls of today Shirley Temple and Elizabeth Taylor films.

    • Rodney Coyne
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      Regarding the ceiling at the Playhouse – I don’t know if it is still the same, but I recall that the clouds moved along it. Can anyone enlighten me as to how this was done?

  13. Gerald Buttigieg
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    Hi Moira,
    I did not know about the Palace “continuous” bioscope as it was before my time. However I did look it up in the 1938 Durban Directory and you are correct it was at 362 West Street and listed as Palace Cinema Tea Room. So where was 362 West Street ? Looking up my 1965 Durban Directory, African Life Arcade and Building is on that site. I listed the African Life Arcade in my post on FAD about Durban Arcades. The Three Monkeys Cofee Bar was at the West Street end and Playdays, the toy shop was at the Pine Street end of the arcade. I learnt something new today.

  14. colin camp
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    you forgot the Piccadilly

  15. Gerald Buttigieg
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    The Piccadilly did not exist in 1938. See the title comment.

  16. Lynne Szlovak
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    Hi ex Durbanites,

    I’ve been challenged by a friend who left Durban yonks ago and swears emphatically that there was never a Cinema at the corner of Broadway and (I think) Chelsea Drive Durban North. Could’ve been Nu Metro even Ster but one things for sure, there was a modern Cinema there. Standard Bank was on the same side of the road if I recall.

    Can anyone help?
    Best wishes
    Lynne

  17. Lynne Slovak
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    Hi good neighbours, what fun ambling down memory lane. I lived in Durban for 50yrs so am in tune with all of your comments with one exception.
    Who remembers a Nu Metro or Ster Cinema Cnr of Broadway and (I think Chelsea Avenue) that was there late 80′ to 90’s?
    I’ve been challenged by my daughter who thinks that I’m playing with the fairies. Not tho coz I remember always returning to a pigeon pooped car 😂 The Cinema was on same side as Broadway Pharmacy. Just over the road.
    Hope someone recalls and can contact me at my email address.
    Happy days the old Durban days were. A proper tip with changed names of so called heroes now – although I have to wonder why my gardener’s name is on the list..😊

  18. Gerald Buttigieg
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    Hi Lynne
    In the 1960s if I remember correctly there was only one cinema at Durban North and that was the Rex Cinema. It was on the corner of Broadway and Kensington Drive. The Standard Bank was on the corner of Broadway and St Andrew’s Drive on the same side of Broadway as the Rex as you mention. I checked this info re the bank in the 1965 Durban Directory.

    • Rodney Coyne
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      There was also a cinema in Greenwood Park. I think it was called the Park Cinema, but I suppose strictly speaking that was North Durban, not actually Durban North. I only went there once – I think to see ‘Ivanhoe’.

  19. T Matthew Wolfen
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    Wow – so much info (including some imperfect memories, which we all have! 😉

    Re Derek’s comments: the 20th Century Fox theatre (corner Smith and Field) did indeed become the Cinerama, but after the Cinerama was pretty-much razed to the ground in a fire, it was rebuilt as the Kine 600 (not 500!)

    And Gerald’s right: Durban North’s only cinema was the Rex Cinema. Later in its life, it became a Metro cinema (this was before the Metro chain was bought by the local concern called NuMetro – which has changed hands a few times in its life).

    The change from Rex to Metro happened around 1971/2. Does anyone know when the Rex opened, however?

  20. Gerald
    | Reply

    Hi
    All I can tell you is that it is listed in the 1965 Durban Directory. Thanks for the additional info re NuMetro.

  21. Gerald
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    HI Rodney
    I cannot recall the name Park Cinema. Looked up the 1965 and 1968 Directories and it does not appear there. I also looked up Palace Cinema which Moira Badstubner mentions in an earlier post. That as well does not appear in both directories. re the clouds on the ceiling. Probably a translucent filter moving over a low wattage lamp. My 2cents.

  22. PETER DOMINEY
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    There is a photo of the Metro on Facebook showing the movie ‘Thats Entertainment’ which was made in the early 70’s. Search ‘Durban Down Memory Lane’

  23. derek austin
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    My wife and I went to the Kine 600, paid our money and when the doors opened we went in and sat down. Eventually people were sitting on the steps and still more trying to come in. The manager then discovered the girl selling tickets did not know to stop at 600 and sold the whole roll of tickets. The manager had to tell those on the steps to get a refund. Was nearly a riot.

  24. nico
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    I used to work for Ster Kinekor so i knew all the cinemas in the 80’s 70’s 90’s

  25. Vinesh R
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    I love reading about the old days. But can someone give more information about the Indian areas and what was life really like. The night life, cinemas as well what they did for fun. They can also relate there stories about there growing up in Grey, Victoria and Queen street and other areas that Indians lived in.

  26. Gerald Buttigieg
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    Hi Vinesh
    Unfortunately a lot of the posts appear randomly on the site as people sometimes do not stick to the topic. Your best best is to do a SEARCH entering odd words related to the topic you are looking for like example “Grey Street” etc. Then it a matter of seeing what comes up. There is a lot of hidden stuff amongst the posts.

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