Film

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THE INFORMATION IN THIS ENTRY NEEDS TO BE INTEGRATED, EDITED and EXPANDED

Film in South Africa =

Film has a long history in South Africa, and has been closely integrated with history of the the stage and media in the country.


The history

The film industry

Cinema buildings in South Africa

The first bioscope or cinema for “non-white” audiences opened in 1909 in Durban, South Africa (Thelma Gutsche 1972).


Film and stage

Film and TV

Film training in South Africa

Talking about film in South Africa

There are a number of South African terms referring to Film


Bioscope

The “Bioscope” was the name of an early motion picture projector. In many parts of the world, certainly in throughout Great Britain’s Central and Southern African territories, it became synonymous with the terms “cinema” or "movie house". See James Burns "The African Bioscope – Movie House Culture in British Colonial Africa", Afrique & histoire 1/2006 (vol. 5), p. 65-80. Uniquely, in South Africa this usage was kept alive till well into the 1970s.


A Bioscope show

A Bioscope show in turn was a fairground attraction consisting of a travelling cinema, using the apparatus called a Bioscope. The heyday of the Bioscope was from the late 1890s until World War I. Bioscope shows were fronted by the largest fairground organs, and these formed the entire public face of the show . A stage was usually in front of the organ, and dancing girls would entertain the crowds between film shows.

Films shown in the Bioscope were primitive, and the earliest of these were made by the showmen themselves. Later, films were commercially produced. Bioscope shows were integrated, in Britain at least, into the Variety shows in the huge Music Halls which were built at the end of the nineteenth century. After the Music Hall Strike of 1907 in London, bioscope operators set up a trade union to represent them. There were about seventy operators in London at this point.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioscope_show


The term Bioscope in South Africa

Pronounced “bi-scope”, it was for long the most common South African term for “cinema”, both in the sense of the art form and more specifically as a name for the building. “Bioscope” was the name of an early motion picture projector, and became synonymous with “cinema” throughout Great Britain’s Central and Southern African territories. The Oxford English Dictionary narrowly defines it as “An earlier form of cinematograph retained in South Africa as the usual term for a cinema or a moving film”, though the term was widely used in Malawi, Zambia, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.

Its use in South Africa derives from the Bioscope show described above, and appears to be related to the Dutch usage (Bioskoop), which was taken over in Afrikaans, although a formal and distinctive Afrikaans term “Rolprent” (=“rolling picture”) was introduced by the Academy for Language and Science in 195**???. The term was widely and uniquely used up till about the mid to late 1970’s.


Other terms used for a film show in South Africa

Flic and Fliek

Since the 1970s bioscope was gradually replaced in popular parlance by "flics" and later by the American "movies". To "go to flic" ["fliek" in Afrikaans], or to “go flic” or even simply "to flic" is still common though, also in Afrikaans.

Movies

By the 1990’s the term "movies" had also taken hold – in English and Afrikaans.


Cinema and Film

Since the 1930s the 1970s "cinema" or "film" ( and "rolprent" or "film" in Afrikaans) were the preferred terms, as they still are today.

Sources

For more information

See also Bio-vaudeville


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The bioscope, cinema and film in South Africa

This encyclopaedia is primarily focussed on the stage and live performances, hence film is only of peripheral interest. However, because of the intregrated nature of the entertainment industry, a short summary of the key point follows.


The history

The film industry

Cinema buildings in South Africa

The first bioscope for “non-white” audiences opened in 1909 in Durban, South Africa (Thelma Gutsche 1972).


Film and stage

Film and TV

Film training

Talking about film in South Africa

The Bioscope

The “Bioscope” was the name of an early motion picture projector. In many parts of the world, certainly in throughout Great Britain’s Central and Southern African territories, it became synonymous with the terms “cinema” or "movie house". See James Burns "The African Bioscope – Movie House Culture in British Colonial Africa", Afrique & histoire 1/2006 (vol. 5), p. 65-80.


A Bioscope show in turn was a fairground attraction consisting of a travelling cinema, using the apparatus called a Bioscope. The heyday of the Bioscope was from the late 1890s until World War I. Bioscope shows were fronted by the largest fairground organs, and these formed the entire public face of the show . A stage was usually in front of the organ, and dancing girls would entertain the crowds between film shows.

Films shown in the Bioscope were primitive, and the earliest of these were made by the showmen themselves. Later, films were commercially produced. Bioscope shows were integrated, in Britain at least, into the Variety shows in the huge Music Halls which were built at the end of the nineteenth century. After the Music Hall Strike of 1907 in London, bioscope operators set up a trade union to represent them. There were about seventy operators in London at this point.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioscope_show


The term Bioscope in South Africa

Pronounced “bi-scope”, it was for long the most common South African term for “cinema”, both in the sense of the art form and more specifically as a name for the building. “Bioscope” was the name of an early motion picture projector, and became synonymous with “cinema” throughout Great Britain’s Central and Southern African territories. The Oxford English Dictionary narrowly defines it as “An earlier form of cinematograph retained in South Africa as the usual term for a cinema or a moving film”, though the term was widely used in Malawi, Zambia, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.

Its use in South Africa derives from the Bioscope show described above, and appears to be related to the Dutch usage (Bioskoop), which was taken over in Afrikaans, although a formal and distinctive Afrikaans term “Rolprent” (= “rolling picture”) was introduced by the Academy for Language and Science in 195**??? and is still used. The term bioscope was widely and uniquely used up till about the mid to late 1970’s.


Other terms used for a film show in South Africa

Since the 1970s bioscope was gradually replaced in popular parlance by a range of less other terms, e.g “the flic’s” and later by the American “movies”. To “go to flic” [“fliek” in Afrikaans], or to “go flic” or even simply "to flic" is still common though, also in Afrikaans. By the 1990’s the term "movies" had also taken hold – in English and Afrikaans, though in more formal writing “cinema” or “film” ("rolprent" in Afrikaans) are still preferred.


Return to

Return to The South African Context/General Terminology and Thematic Entries

Return to South African Theatre/Terminology and Thematic Entries

Return to South African Film /Terminology and Thematic Entries

Return to South African Media/Terminology and Thematic Entries

Return to South African Theatre Venues, Companies, Societies, etc

Return to The ESAT Entries

Return to Main Page