With winter fast approaching in Cape Town, even backpackers in the “City to Visit 2014” are looking for cozy venues to be on a blustery night. Just around the corner from Ashanti Lodge, the historic and character-filled Labia Theatre offers that and so much more. And the already low prices have been slashed even further for guests of Ashanti.

Like many foreigners visiting Cape Town, I initially thought that The Labia, with its old school décor and neon lighting, was a sex cinema!   Only later did I find out that it’s so much better (if you can believe that possible).

With a long and interesting history, The Labia offers much more than just movies and popcorn. Originally an Italian Embassy ballroom, it became a theatre in 1949 and was opened by Princess Labia, hence the name. In the following decades it was slowly transformed into a four screen cinema. The original theatre became screen one, then the rehearsal area was transformed into screen two, and now even the old backstage area has been converted to a cozy little screen, perfect for documentaries and local independent films. It’s a very refreshing change from the mega-screens of today’s overpriced omniplexes.

With unspoilt character and charm, The Labia Art Cinema has attracted all sorts of celebrities including John Cleese, Matt Damon (who very kindly signed the popcorn lady’s bra), Colin Farrell and Selma Hayek, as well as directors Werner Herzog and Doris Dorrie.

The owner, Ludi, has a strong passion for high quality films, ensuring a regular flow of patrons from all age groups. Ludi shows only the best of commercial films and makes a lot of space for art films, documentaries and special interest films. There are regular premiers by local movie makers and seasonal festivals like Halloween horror. With an increase in high quality extreme sports films brought in by companies such as Red Bull, the number of young patrons is rising. And The Labia’s liquor license and stocked bar ensure visitors have fun time. With everything from wine and beer to vodka-spiked Slush Puppies on sale, the theatre can become quite a party. At last year’s opening of The Great Gatsby, locals got dressed up in full 1920s regalia and, drinks in hand, partied just as hard as the characters on screen.

But there is also an educational side to the theatre.  Ashanti guest, German Mike, told me of his experiences at the theatre’s Eco-festival.  He attended very informative documentary screenings and was impressed by the organisation and attendance. Mike even enjoyed a talk by director who spoke of his life and career change from paper-maker to tree-planter. The Labia Art Cinema also hosts regular meetups and screenings for the spiritual and soul searching movie fans. All tastes are catered for.

So when the wind picks up and the rain starts to fall, grab a business card from Ashanti reception and get yourself over to The Labia for a 35 Rand film! Check out something local, something informative, or just something awesome. You’ll find the listings in Ashanti’s lobby or check out The Labia’s website (www.thelabia.co.za) for times and movie-meal deals suitable for a backpacker budget. All Ashanti guests get the special price of 35 Rand.