Pinewood Theatre

The Pinewood Theatre was built by Forest Drive Investments as part of a complex on Forest Drive that included flats. The auditorium was large enough to contain 1000 seats, but to provide ample leg room only 788 seats were installed. The seats were on a sloping floor in a staggered arrangement to ensure clear view of the screen. There were no side seats. All the seats were of a high back design and were wider than the normal theatre/cinema seats. The stage was large enough to accommodate all types of productions including ballet. The large screen was tilted sightly forward for improved viewing, an unusual feature was a cry room which families could use for restless children while still watching and hearing the movie. The room could also be hired for children’s parties. A totally innovative service was a free babysitting service for movie goers provided you collected and returned the babysitter to the Theatre.

It had a spacious foyer with a large window looking out towards the mountain. The foyer was open for hire for events such as dances presumably when the cinema itself was not being used. It was claimed that the Pinewood Theatre was the only cinema to have a tearoom and restaurant in the foyer. The restaurant, The Knotty Pine, was run by Pineland’s resident, Ernst Memel who was described as a high-class Swiss Caterer.

The opening took place in the form of a concert after various speeches and included performances by Alan Lusty, Basil Shlom and Lynn Penver. After interval a documentary was shown. The evening ended with a full-length feature. In the early 1960s, Pieter Toerien aged 17, who had attended Pinelands High and later became a highly successful impresario, presented bio-vaudeville programmes before the main feature.

The theatre was extremely popular, and was used for concerts, religious rallies, school events etc. One of the highlights took place in 1970 when the Theatre was chosen as the venue to premiere the blockbuster film Waterloo. This included local celebrities and a full Highlanders band, bagpipes and all. However, in time the days of large cinemas came to an end. A company showing art films and foreign releases hired the theatre for a few years.

Eventually the theatre closed for good. An attempt was made to renovate the theatre as a youth centre but was not viable. The property was sold by the owners and the Knotty Pine moved to a new venue in Mowbray. However, the original sale of the property by Garden Cities to Forest Drive Investments included a reversionary clause. Old Mutual invoked the clause and once again became the owners before selling to Old Mutual. After the demolition of the flats and the Theatre, Old Mutual submitted plans in 1997 to develop part of the site as an office block. The remainder of the property is currently being developed as a multi-story block of flats.