Making sense of the bioscope: The experience of cinemas in Twentieth century Cape Town
de Almeida, Fernanda Pinto
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In my thesis I focus on Cape Town’s imaginary of cinemas – popularly called bioscopes – within a larger historical approach to temporary film halls, picture palaces, atmospherics and drive-ins. My inquiry includes both conceptual and institutional lenses to show how cinema houses enabled particular affects, eschewed bureaucratic restrictions and questioned political authority over public spaces. I ask specifically: how did cinema help to forge audiences and political sentiment by mobilizing the senses? How was the public threat posed by so-called ‘flea-pit’ film halls of early twentieth century seemingly appeased by the private promise of the multiplex rooms in suburban enclosures? For this purpose, I examine the appeal of early twentieth century cinemas alongside their impact in the city’s geography and incipient public sphere to argue that cinema promoted a collective form of experience that bypassed both segregationist and liberal policies of governance.