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THEN & NOW: When it cost 7p to go to the movies

Published Jul 18, 2018

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Durban - This week’s picture of old and new Durban takes in the Victoria Embankment, now Margaret Mncadi Road, looking towards Maydon Wharf. The picture was probably shot in the 1920s.

The Embankment construction started in 1896 and was completed in 1901 which was when the city’s beaches were moved from the bay to the current beachfront.

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The Criterion Cinema seen in the picture was on the corner of Field Street, now Joe Slovo Street, and the Embankment. It was built as a music hall, was designed by architects Stucke and Harrison and opened on May 20, 1912. The popular Durban venue was used by a number of South African theatre companies as well as visiting companies such as the Old Vic.

The Criterion is also mentioned in the 1938 Lawrie’s Directory of the Cinemas in Durban. At that time the city had a total of 11 cinemas or theatres. And entrance was 7p.

It was demolished in 1953 and replaced by Bay Towers, a 12-floor block.

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Our photographer Sibusiso Ndlovu opted to get some height on the picture to show the extent of the sweeping changes to the Embankment, and shot this picture from the 8th floor of the Grindrod Building. Bay Towers, where the Criterion once was, is the pink building on the far right, partially obscured by the back of Quadrant House which was commissioned in 1929 by architect Ritchie McKinlay and designed in the Berea style. It is on the opposite corner from where the Criterion used to stand.

The Independent on Saturday appeals to readers who have old pictures of Durban and other parts of the province to send them to us for consideration. If any readers are featured in the old picture, we will do our best to recreate the scene with them in it again. Readers who send pictures digitally - images should be about 1MB - can address them, with the relevant information, to [email protected]

If the pictures are in hard-copy format, they can be posted to The Editor, Old Pictures, The Independent on Saturday, PO Box 47549, Greyville, 4023.

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The Independent on Saturday

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