It was this need to create a space which allowed the movie-watcher to relax and take their time which prompted The Bioscope's move from Maboneng to 44 Stanley, “People would come to our events and the energy was great in Maboneng but once the movie, comedy night or talk was over they would leave. We wanted to have a place that allowed people to stay, partly because I wanted to start a gift shop and then also so that we could interact with the community in a more relaxed manner,” explains owner Russell Grant.
44 Stanley was the location they chose and with its tranquil courtyards and boutique mix offering everything from art and books to fashion, food and furniture, the Bioscope slotted in easily. In comparison to their original Maboneng location, there is now ample space with benches in the courtyard outside, a spacious reception area with shelve of vinyls and books which inspired, or were made for movies, collectibles, posters and t-shirts by Grant's label Limited Edish. It's spacious, and Grant’s curation of items means even if you don’t plan on buying anything (although you’ll be hard-pressed not to) a peruse of the shelves is a great way to pass the time while you wait for your screening to begin.
“The gift shop is something I wanted to do for a while and having this space allowed for Limited Edish to find a home too.” Limited Edish creates local tees and sweatshirts, hoodies too, which are fun, good quality and carry illustrations that either point to films, or are the works of illustrators he likes. They often references Johannesburg and its cultural landscape. The designs are quirky and most importantly the t-shirts are made from a heavy cotton so they endure. “Some of the references might be niche, including one from Hillbrow Records which closed in the 80s. But even if you don’t know the illustrator or reference they still look damn good if I say so myself,” he says.
Aside from Limited Edish’s wares there's a range of second-hand books which either inspired or relate to film as well as soundtracks ranging from Dirty Dancing to obscure Italian films from the 70s. “Much like with our events and screenings we don’t want people thinking this is some highbrow place for film buffs,” Russell chuckles. “I’m finding all these books and vinyls myself and it’s just me finding things which look cool or which I think people will like. Similarly with our events we have comedy nights, anime, French cinema, date nights. The list goes on... Some of the films are popular throwbacks, some critically acclaimed and then some which our team love. But there’s something for everyone, and the screenings are often full and lively which adds to the experience.”
Film posters, soundtracks and books aren’t the only things you can find at The Bioscope with Russell Grant saying how they also wanted to sell items which spoke to Johannesburg, and which, importantly, presented the sides of the city that make it so compelling. The takes on Joburg are refreshing, and they not only make great gifts for visits to family and friends but are also excellent ways for locals to show their love for this city.
The Bioscope is naturally the first stop for film enthusiasts but what quickly becomes clear when speaking to Grant is how this is his passion, and he doesn’t want to share it with only a select few people, but as many as possible. The question then becomes: who is this space for? The answer is simple, you, us, everyone, The Bioscope wants more people to fall in love with film and Johannesburg. Their store at 44 Stanley has allowed them to expand their offerings and create a film heaven where the pearly gates are open to all.
And if you want to hear what The Bioscope has to say on film, The Video Store Podcast is a weekly chat amongst its employees, you'll start listening for advice on what to watch and stay for the characters you will come to love.