Open-Air Cinemas Near You – 6 Places In South Africa Where The Big Screen Is Outdoors

Updated Friday, 23 August 2019

The inner-city trend of outdoor cinema is fast filling the void that the demise of the drive-in left in the lives of many South Africans.

It’s already a rage worldwide and places like Monaco, Wroclaw (Poland), Broom and Sydney (Australia), London, Colorado, Dusseldorf, and Los Angeles regularly host movies on giant screens in parks, in squares, on rooftops and even in jacuzzis – like the Hot Tub Cinema on the roof of Rockwell House in Shoreditch, London.

The UK outdid itself in this category with a rash of cycle-powered outdoor cinemas popping up around the country – in Manchester, Bristol, Brighton, at Womad and locations around London (the skinny wheeled kind of bike is the only bike suitable for the generators, in case you are interested).

Given our history for outdoor drive-ins (the last South African drive-in, in Pretoria’s Menlyn Park, closed as recently as February 2014!), it was only time before the good weather, self-evident outdoor venues and enterprising individuals combined to host similar events in South African cities.


where the sunsets and Highveld weather leave you drooling

Open-air cinemas in Jozi are not somewhere you arrive in slip slops with a picnic basket. You dress to go to movies. Usually held on a rooftop of a rather sophisticated building somewhere, pizza and craft beer are laid on, and the emphasis is on unconventional, rather than mainstream films.


The Bioscope, Jo’burg’s independent cinema, is an attempt to restore the good old bioscope – those walk-in cinemas in beautiful old buildings that were once all over the city.

The Bioscope is located in the Maboneng Precinct, a revival of old central Johannesburg. Independent cinemas are few and far between in South Africa; other than the Labia in Cape Town, The Bioscope is the only one of its kind in the country. Those for whom watching a film in a shopping mall is anathema come here.

Get on The Bioscope’s mailing list to find out more about their outdoor screenings on rooftops and spaces in the city. If the photos on their website are anything to go by, these events are well worth attending.

The Bioscope in Maboneng
Photograph: The Bioscope in Maboneng ©


where any time of the year is perfect (except when it rains)

Cape Town is seriously happening when it comes to outdoor cinema. There are at least three weekly venues, and the Winelands host seasonal screenings in different venues once a month.

During the summer (November to April) Galileo Open Air Cinema, a temporary outdoor cinema (they use an inflatable screen with a rear-projection surface), presents weekly evening screenings at venues that need little introduction:


Local food vendors supply nosh, and chairs and blankets are for hire, although you are welcome to BYO (but the selection may be too tempting to pass over).


The Galileo team also set up a temporary screen in the northern suburbs at Hillcrest Quarry on Tuesday evenings – a stunning venue with the lake as a backdrop – on the Hillcrest Wine and Olive Estate in Durbanville.


THE FORESHORE: Enjoy outdoor movies at the V&A Waterfront on the Foreshore, on Thursday evenings. Outdoor movies three nights of the week, if you so choose. Get there early for a good spot on the Croquet Lawn.


The Grand Daddy Boutique Hotel on Long Street is home to the Pink Flamingo Rooftop Cinema that lies in amongst seven vintage Airstream trailers, where you are welcome to spend a night if they are not already fully booked.

Add to this a bit of bubbly, the opportunity to order an accompanying picnic, incredible views of the city’s skyline, and a range of classic movies (see their website for details) and you have a winning, all-year-round combination. Grand Daddy supply blankets, directors’ chairs, and the odd couch.

For more information on the Winelands’ screenings (Lourensford, Rustenberg, Knorhoek, Warwick, Groot Constantia, Webersburg, Vergenoegd) visit the Galileo website.

The Galileo
Photograph: The Galileo ©


where the nights are balmy, and the seas are warm

If movies in the park on a big screen grabs you, then just down the road from Durban is the seaside ‘village’ of Amanzimtoti. Only 20 odd minutes’ drive from the city and you find yourself in world of mild, dry winters, and balmy summer evenings that are warm enough to leave the cardigan at home on its hangar, where it belongs.


Outdoor Stories have already had successful outdoor big screen movie screenings in places like Salt Rock and the Durban Botanic Gardens (to the right of the gazebo and the lily pond), but whilst they are in negotiations to use Jameson Park for similar events, they hold regular (once a week) outdoor movie screenings on the Amanzimtoti rugby field.

By all accounts these are worth the drive. Past screenings have included: Grease, Moulin Rouge, Dirty Dancing, Fight Club, Top Gun and Horton hears a Who.

An inflatable screen (7000 x 3937) with a front projector is the reason this team can quickly adapt to any location – indoor or outdoor. It even withstands winds of up to 30 km/hour, and packs away within an hour.

Join Outdoor Stories’ Facebook page for further information. Take your own: food, drinks, blankets, cushions and chairs (although these relegate you to the back of the crowd).