Capitol Theatre 1931 – Livingstone Zambia

posted by CapitolLivingstone on December 5, 2008 at 3:35 pm

The Capitol Theatre in Livingstone Zambia is being restored. Built in 1931 it is the country’s oldest surviving cinema (the first one had no roof and when it rained it was described in the local press at the time as ‘being a little inconvenient’ when the heavens opened up with a torrential down pour!!!)

The Grill family, refugees from Lithuania, initially started the theatre and it soon passed on to the Sossen’s (related by marriage). Old man Harry Sossen was quite the gent in the town and he hosted the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Danny Kae and Ann Todd during their visits to Livingstone to see the Victoria Falls. Harry also struck up a friendship with Laurens van der Post whose book ‘Flamingo Feather’ Hitchcock wanted to put into film form. He had even chosen his leading lady for the film, Grace Kelly, but shortly afterwards she married Prince Rainier of Monaco and so the idea was shelved.

John Thaw of Inspector Morse fame made a film in the town in 1971, one of Doris Lessing’s books The Grass is Singing.

The Capitol building is of Art Deco design. It has 254 seats downstairs, 140 in the circle upstairs and two small boxes each with 10 seats in them.

It has been closed for a few years now but everything is still there, including the orginal and subsequent projectors. There are still plenty of reels with film on them. If anyone has any ideas where funding can come from for the restoration of the machines and indeed the building as a whole I would be most grateful to find out.

The place was covered in dust but now well on the way to being reopened in 2009 albeit in stages as money is collected.

Peter Jones

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