Cape Town - The Good Hope Centre is to become a film studio from July, and will no longer be available to use for community, private, national or international events such as the Cape Malay Choir concerts.
Next month’s Cape Town Cycle Tour Lifecyle Expo will be the last at the venue.
The City of Cape Town has already written to vendors to tell them the centre will not be available from July 1.
Garreth Bloor, mayoral committee member for tourism, events and economic development, confirmed that major international expos and events, as well as local shows, would be affected.
“The more than four months’ notice will allow the vendors to look for alternative venues.”
Councillors attending a tourism and events portfolio committee meeting last week were shocked to hear that organisers were being advised to “find an alternative venue to host your events from July onwards”, without the matter being discussed in the council.
“Proper process is not being followed,” said Achmat Williams of the National Party of SA. “The community organisations that use that venue have not been consulted.”
This is not the first time the domed structure has been earmarked for possible use as a film studio. In 1998, the city council considered a proposal from the South African Film Finance Corporation to lease or buy the centre. The plan, which included building one of the world’s largest sound stages and a film school, never gained traction and was shelved. But it was reported then that although a film studio would generate a substantial income, it would close the facility to public use.
In the 17 years since, the centre has fallen into disrepair, and last year the city said it would cost between R8 million and R16 million for critical work to keep the building in working condition.
But for groups and organisations such as the Cape Malay Choir Board, which has held competitions at the venue since it opened in the early 1980s, the Good Hope Centre is still an important city asset that can be rented more cheaply than other conference centres or facilities.
About 5 000 people attend the nine to 10 annual events associated with the choir.
Cape Malay Board chairman Shafiek April said the board would comment on the plans once it had contacted the city and reviewed the information.
David Bellairs, chief executive of the Cape Town Cycle Tour Trust, said that while saddened by the decision, it was “not unexpected” because the centre was being used largely by non-profit organisations and was no longer sustainable. The city was working with the trust on alternative venues.
Anton Groenewald, executive director of tourism, events and economic development, said in the letter to vendors the “process to enter into a short-term lease agreement” to use the centre as a film studio was being finalised, and the studio was expected to be operational from July 1.
Bloor said on Monday that discussions to use the centre as a film studio were still under way.
According to the minutes of the tourism portfolio committee meeting, Groenewald said the city had been approached by four film companies to use the centre and was looking at a possible contract with Cape Town Film Studios to co-ordinate the use of the building.
The studio would be operated and managed by a single tenant on a lease of three to five years, although Bloor said the proposed agreement was for a lease of less than three years. Legal and technical issues, and terms and conditions of the rental agreement were being finalised, and there would also be a public participation process once the city’s intent was advertised.