Review: Galileo Open Air Cinema

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The Galileo Open Air CinemaThe weather was perfect for last night’s season launch of the Galileo Open Air Cinema at Kirstenbosch Gardens. For the next six months, Galileo will be hosting regular outdoor movie screenings at a variety of beautiful venues in Cape Town and the winelands. Ticket prices start at R79 and vary depending on the optional extras and whether you buy them online or at the venue.

You can rent blankets and comfy backrests (cleverly designed; I’d like to buy some), but note that you’re not allowed to bring your own chairs, presumably because those would interfere with the view; everyone sits at ground level. Doors open at 6pm, and the movie starts after sunset. Seating is unreserved and unstructured (unless you buy a VIP ticket), so it’s a good idea to get there early and set up your chairs and/or blankets as soon as you arrive.

A small collection of food stalls offers tasty options for dinner: sushi, Argentinian sandwiches and wraps, artisan pizza, paella and nachos. Baristas will brew you a cup of hot coffee, you can buy craft beer, wine and cocktails, and naturally there’s a vendor selling popcorn, sweets and soft drinks. Some vendors may have card machines, but be prepared to pay with cash or Snapscan.

The popular Nuri Sushi immediately caught my eye, but since all their meals were pre-packed, it wasn’t nearly as appealing as any of the other dishes, which were freshly cooked on site. The Maggino Bros pizza looked fantastic, and the Mexican stall was serving generous plates of nachos; they were by far the most popular stalls.

The less conventional options felt more rewarding, however. Gusto did a delicious seafood paella, while the friendly, informative team at Argies made me an instant fan of chicken pamplona – a tender chicken breast rolled around a filling of ham, olives and mozzarella, then grilled, sliced and served with a light tomato dressing. It’s not the kind of dish you find at every food market, and it was excellent.

At R50 to R80 per plate and R25+ for wine or beer however, eating at the venue feels pricey when you could pack a picnic. The wine estates will have their own menus though, and in those cases it may be preferable to spend extra for a special meal. Be warned that you’re not allowed to take any alcohol into the winelands venues, and your bags will be checked.

With drinks and dinner sorted, few things sound better than a movie under the stars; Galileo has the perfect summer activity here, provided the weather complies. My only major criticism is the movie selection. There’s a glut of romance, as if Galileo is specifically trying to cater to stereotypical girls’ nights out and cliché movie dates. The assortment of cheesy blockbusters is expected – they’re safe options that appeal to the lowest common denominator – but as a film lover I would be reluctant to pay to watch them, even if I get to do it with a picnic in a stunning venue. There are also some odd choices, like The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (but none of the others in the series) and a selection of the best YouTube videos (although that may be surprisingly fun)

The few cult classics and light art house movies are more appealing, and the line-up improves later in the season. Nevertheless, when I look at the options, I find myself having to choose between a venue I’d really like to go to and a film I’d really like to watch (or haven’t seen multiple times); there are few screenings that cater to both preferences and some are months away. The line-up needs greater variety – less romance, more science fiction, horror, crime thrillers, and good dramas.

That said, the movie is only one part of a quintessentially chilled night out. Even the dreadful Cocktail (1988, starring Tom Cruise) was good for a laugh when paired with the utter pleasure of relaxing in the glorious outdoors on a gorgeously warm evening with a glass of wine and great food. Give me first-class movies and I could do this all summer.

Lauren Smith

Galileo Open Air Cinema is hosting regular screenings until 29 April 2016.

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