Galileo Open-Air Cinema: Movie Magic Under the Stars

It’s difficult to make the brick-and-mortar movie-watching experience truly unique in this day and age.

We know how to go to the movies.

We know the dance of deliberating on everything from film choice to times, and especially the snack selection.

The Galileo Open-Air cinema isn’t anything new. However, it is still one of the most exciting excursions to experience around the Cape. It’s also a pretty great activity pick considering it adheres to one of the most essential pandemic guidelines of being outdoors more, rather than in a crowded indoor space ready to superspread something sinister.

I had such a wholly wonderful experience made memorable because somebody cared enough about the details at Galileo, and all attendees opened themselves up to soak in the picturesque design of the outdoor cinema experience.

While Cape Town and its surrounds, is a place which revels in outdoor experiences, it tends to vary whether they’re good for the whole family, for the solo, and for groups with various tastes.

It becomes a bit of a nightmare trying to find something everyone can agree on – but everybody loves a good movie!

With the pandemic having shut the doors on so many indoor cinemas – both independent and franchised – it’s been slim pickings on entertainment that isn’t dining, tasting, animal-watching, or sleeping. South Africa also isn’t that big on the whole ‘theatre in the park’ concept where pilgrimages would be made to key parks, picnic blankets spread out, and an afternoon of the arts enjoyed.

However, local theatres here were also hit hard by the pandemic, much like the rest of the world. Cape Town’s own stalwart Fugard Theatre is beholden to the times, now permanently closed, and the plight of struggling artists and performers continues into 2022.

Galileo is one of the concepts that has done extremely well, by being intuitive and adaptive.

When my scheduled movie viewing venue was forecast to be hit by gale-force winds, the brand sent out notifications well in advance, that the screening had moved and everyone was entitled to full refunds, simply migrating themselves to gorgeous Kirstenbosch Gardens on the day, or free to make alternative arrangements.

It was all frightfully professional, but the email was personable too.

Additionally to the initial excellence, Galileo offers various ticket packages for their moviegoers, depending on dates, holidays, and whether you booked the Royale or Picnic experience:

  1. Royale = Tickets cost R290 per person and include entry, backrest, blanket, welcome drink, appetiser and small popcorn
  2. Picnic:
    • Standard – R109 per person
    • Comfy – R125 per person
    • Warm & Comfy – R130 per person
    • VIP – R195 per person (incl. drink, chocolate & popcorn)
    • Double Delight Ticket – R350 for two (incl. 2 x popcorn, 2 x smarties & 2 x fruit pastilles)
    • Halloween Special Screening – R190 per person
    • Christmas Day Special Screening – R225 per person
    • Boxing Day Special Screening – R225 per person
    • Valentine’s Day Special Screening – R250 per person
    • Easter Special – R150 per person (incl. Easter egg hunt & more)

Arriving at Kirstenbosch Gardens – a good deal away from the Battery Park location that is far more convenient for me to commute to – ticketholders had ample parking, clear signage, and excitement in the air.

You walk up to the area allocated for the Open-Air cinema and it meets the expectations you’ve watched in movies and seen on Pinterest.

Set against a vibrant green vista stretching out tens of miles towards Winelands and stately homes, the large white screen greets guests with adverts, trailer snippets, and attendee instructions.

Given the fact that Kirstenbosch Gardens is in a protected nature park where leaving zero footprints is prefered, everyone had to make use of clearly marked and strategically situated rubbish bins for any garbage.

Passing the ticket table check-in leads the attendees to blanket & chair collection.

Adequate as these 2 items are in the throes of the warmer seasons, anyone wishing for peak comfort – especially in the chill of the night – should pack their fleece blankets into their totes!

At no point do attendees feel unsafe – well except for me thinking about nature’s maybe-lurking-critters.

Everyone is free to pick a spot and settle in – able to leave their haul for the pop-up kiosk food stands a few steps away, and already bustling with eager movie-goers contemplating just what will lead to contentment.

Food choices available for purchase include cinema essentials and departures like:

  • Pizza
  • Burgers and fries
  • Popcorn
  • Chocolate
  • Cheese and Charcuterie Platters
  • Coffee
  • Samoosas
  • Oysters
  • Hot Chocolate
  • Sodas
  • and even wine.


If you arrive with an hour to spare before the screening, you should be all set to set up your section, choose your munchies, allow yourself and your entourage time to visit the bathrooms and work off the excitement, as well as be ready for a night of unique entertainment.

Perhaps some craft corners, or play areas, would help to occupy the restless young or old, though.

The actual movie-watching experience was a particular delight for me because I chose a film I truly love to rewatch, and it’s been one I had ALWAYS yearned to watch in cinema because it is one of the truest embodiments of ‘cinematic’ filmmaking.

Galileo’s movie offerings lean more towards classics, a scattering of blockbusters (old and new), and the rare spine-chilling night of darker picks. I would definitely love a night of Wes Craven’s best, but alas!

I got to comfortably see the ensemble cast rom-com (romantic comedy genre) ‘The Holiday’ though, and it was everything I had hoped for.

The perfection that is composer Hans Zimmer’s Film Score (original music in a film), was blessedly not done a disservice by Galileo’s cinema sound setup.

The visuals were also quite vivid and the screen not billowing or shifting with the wind – a worry as some projectors lack the ability to showcase cinema-level quality, and setups can be subject to the elements.

A recommendation from me, is to watch the chosen film with a friend or partner who appreciates the movie, and the ceremony of the open-air cinema experience. Getting to experience all this with someone who equally adores a beloved Hollywood cast and a rom-com, made this first-time experience as hilarious, emotional, and worthy as the film itself – for every single moment!

If you choose the right film, and head to a green space Galileo Open-Air Cinema near you, I genuinely believe you cannot leave disappointed by the experience.


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And if missing out on the Galileo through the winter, is bumming you out – fret not!

I have a solution you can just scale to suit your budget.

Some DIY solutions to get a truly Cinematic (and brag-worthy) experience at home:

#1 – Get up and call Galileo to book a private screening.

It counts as DIY – truly – because you got up and called them.

You would also have the autonomy to pick the film to be screened, so that’s great!

Perhaps: Horror ‘Slasher’ Night?

#2 – Quick fix

If you want to watch a movie with the least amount of effort, then grab a sheet and hang it somewhere high in your room (pull it taut so it doesn’t billow too much), or pick a blank wall.

Rent/Buy/Borrow a basic projector, and then grab your chosen flick and begin the cinematic magic with your laptop/PC playing the movie from the table, and your strategically balanced projector projecting.

For budget sakes, you could forgo the projector for your computer, television, or smart tv, and some portable speakers…just don’t forget your snacks!

#3 – Go for the elaborate setup. Here’s your checklist:

  • Are you going with a media player or computer? This is something to consider for exactly HOW you’ll be playing your movie.
  • Hire/Buy a home theatre projector and plan where it will sit/be mounted that ensures a great view of the film, without being obscured by anything or anyone
    • Think splash and water/droplet resistant
    • Think vivid colours
    • Think image clarity (you want high resolution)
    • Think built-in options like:
      • Speakers
      • Bluetooth audio output
      • Streaming Apps
  • Ensure you have loudspeakers – potentially ones that provide Surround Sound
  • Secure a projector screen – even inflatable ones exist.
  • Print some tickets for who’s attending (Great templates are on CANVA)
  • Dress up, and make your attendees do the same if they’re keen
  • Recruit your siblings, family members, friends, or pets, to help you stage the experience by being Ushers and/or movie snack servers
  • Ensure everyone has a warm and clean blanket to snuggle into
  • Double-check your seating count.

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