Staff bid a sad farewell to the Constantia
BENONI CITY TIMES, FRIDAY, APRIL 29, 1994
The Constantia Cinema closed its doors for the last time on Thursday, April 21, after local businessmen were treated to a premier of a latest release.
The nostalgic evening saw many of the movie- goers reminiscing about the Constantia’s glory days.
But those who will miss the cinema the most are the three people who were re- sponsible for keeping it running.
Perhaps the most familiar face at the cinema is that of Winnie (60) who worked at the Constantia since 1973.
She was most often to be found behind the counter selling refreshments and was always willing to chat with customers and provide a helping hand where necessary.
Winnie refused to be photographed or provide the City Times with her surname because she wants to avoid harassment.
In the past, cinema-goers have knocked on her door in the early hours of the morning to beg her to open the cinema so they can fetch forgotten items from the building.
“I feel sorry for the old folk because they now have nowhere to go to the movies,” said Winnie, fondly remembers the cinema’s hey-days.
“I never thought the Constantia would close. What has happened to Benoni?
“The cinema used to be so busy we hardly had time to have tea. People used to dress up for the evening shows and come from all over, even as far away as Heidelberg and Delmas.”
Vernon Marks (45) may not be familiar Benonians because of his behind-the-scenes role as projectionist.
“I started work on Feb- ruary 27, 1967,” he remembers fondly.
He was given the job — at the then Savoy Cinema- – at the tender age of 17.
He applied for the position of apprentice projectionist after saw an advertisement while watching a movie at the cinema with his parents.
“It was a black and white movie-Torn Curtain’, with Julie Andrews and Paul Newman.
“I applied for the job and the next morning I started work,” he said.
“I will miss the Constantia. It used to be a very busy place, but has never been more than half full during the past year. “It had the biggest screen on the East Rand.”
He remembers when, in 1978, someone broke into the building one night.
“They tore the screen, opened all the sweets, poured Coke everywhere and damaged everything- the place was a mess.”
No-one was ever arrested for the crime.
Vernon and Winnie have also seen lots of managers come and go.
“The manager who stayed the longest was Des Jonker,” remembers Vernon.
The last manager was Richard Zwane, a modern go- getter who made a valiant effort to revive interest in the cinema.
Richard tried to attract businesses, schools and residents without success.
He will now be stationed at the East Rand Mall cinemas.
The other member of the staff was Dora Nobongoza (33), who manned the ticket booth and completed general office duties. She worked at the cinema for 12 years.
The team agree they will miss their old lives at the Constantia, even though the hours were long.
They worked from 9am to 10pm, depending on the movies which were show- ing.
“We worked together as a team
– we were like a family,” said Winnie. And between the three of them they saw a heck of a lot of movies.
The three moving forces behind the old movie house face an uncertain future. Vernon has been offered a projectionists’ job at the East Rand Mall.
But he cannot accept the position as he does not have transport, he cycled from his Mackenzie Park home to the Constantia every day. He has a family wife Tina and two children, Alaistar and Ronald to support.
Winnie and Dora (who also has three young children to support) hope to be placed at another Ster- Kinekor cinema.