Years of grounding in the craft of building, allied with a ﬁrst hand knowledge of the great diversity of modern entertainment, enabled the Quibell brothers to inspan, with outstanding success, that latterday slogan – “Form follows function”. Concrete walls alone do not make a theatre, nor steel bars a stage. To these fundamentals must the myriad of demands of the sophisticated modern audience of today be added. High standards are set by renowned artists who have played in the leading theatres of the world’s capitals.
To ensure that the necessary technical polish is superimposed by the backstage staﬀ upon the performance of the most talented players, the wheels within wheels behind the scenes must revolve smoothly and without a hitch.
Functionalism, the idea that a building should serve its purpose, has been a lodestar for the Quibell brothers, guiding them through unusual and challenging visions.
At the turn of a knob, the theatre, with its revolving stage, can be transformed into a cinema. At the ﬂick of a hydraulic switch, the screen can shrink or swell like Alice Wonderland. The Cinerama at the 3 Arts is the longest in the world, at one-tenth of an acre. It is woven from a single piece of nylon so that no joins jar the impact on the audience.
The 3 Arts was constructed during a period when the South African building industry was so overloaded that the Department of Community Development imposed a ban on non-essential building in order to overcome the housing shortage. The Quibells were told that the building of the theatre could only proceed if built by unconventional means that would conserve bricks, bricklayers, plasterers, carpenters and so forth. To achieve such conservation, it was decided to carry out the construction in large concrete elements.
Reinforcing and structural steelwork – Designed and Erected by Consani’s Eng. Ltd. Including Design Supply and Erection of Steel Framework for Mobile Cinerama Screen. Pre-constructed Concrete walls manufactured on site & erected – by Robert Katz Construction Company (Pty.) Ltd. All Construction Plant and Patented Processes Supplied by our Associate Company Claude Neon Lights S.A. Ltd. Cape Town – Tivli Patent and Plant Hire (Pty.) Ltd. Indoor-Outdoor Ozite Carpeting Supplied and laid Aluminum Faced Facade and Glazed Screens with the Battery of Entrance doors – by Kalley Flooring Co. (Pty.) Ltd. were fabricated and installed by Brimble & Briggs Ltd. Exquisite carpeting in the theatre – Co-operated by Shore Salamon (Pty.) Ltd. & Van Dyk Carpets Concrete for the Foundations, Floors and the Columns – by Ready Mixed Concrete (Cape) (Pty.) Ltd. Contractors for the lay-out of the grounds at the 3 Arts Theatre – by N. & G. Quibell
Ronnie Quibell claimed that it was the biggest indoor cinema screen in the world. The screen was 40 metres wide and 13 metres high. The building is only 37 metres wide, so the solution was to curve the screen.
The Sandpipers were the ﬁrst band to play open at the 3 Arts Theatre on 11 January 1968.
Posters, Photograph Credit
David C T Smith
STAGE PRODUCTIONS: IPI TOMBI WITH MARGRET SINGANA | JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAM COAT. ALVIN COLLISION, BRUCE MILLAR AND RICHARD LORING. | A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC. TAUBIE KUSHLICK PRODUCTION | INTERNATIONAL ICE SPECTACULAR. | THE BEST WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS DES AND DAWN PRODUCTION. + ARTISTS: CHRIS DE BURG | CHIC COREA | AMERICA | PERCY SLEDGE | CURTIS MAYFIELD | MARNALADE | TROGGS | TEMPTATIONS | JOSEPHINE BAKER | EARTHA KITT | ROLF HARRIS | MAX BYGRAVES | SPIKE MILLIGAN | TOM JONES | ENGELBERT HUMPERDINCK | LIBERACE | PETULA CLARK | CILLA BLACK | 4 TOPS | THE ROCKETS | JETHRO TULL | DEMIS RUSSOS | RICHARD CLYDERMAN | VICKY LEANDROS | DELLA REESE | DOBIE GRAY | MILLE JACKSON | TINA TURNER | JONNY CLEGG | CLARENCE CARTER | ALBERTO DELUIGI & LOS AMIGOS | VERA LYNN | BLACK THEATRE OF PRAGUE | JOE DOLAN | FOSTER & ALLEN | ROD MCKUEN | FRANKIE LAINE | GERALDINE IRISH SINGER | TAVARUS USA GROUP | EDWIN STARR | ISAAC HAYES USA PERFORMER FILM STAR | VICTOR BORGE | GILBERT BECCAUD | DEEP PURPLE UK ROCK BAND | SUZI QUATRO UK ROCK BAND | BROOK BENTON USA SINGER | PEDLARS UK JAZZ BAND | LORETTA LYNE USA COUNTRY | ZEBRA & GIRAFFE | TAXI VIOLENCE | DIE ANTWOORD | FOKOFPOLISIEKAR | SKUNK ANANSIE | PLACEBO | COLLECTIVE SOUL … AND MANY MORE
After a lengthy period of decay, the Quibell family decided to sell the property to Rapfund Investments in October 2019.
Rapfund’s vision was to restore the building to its previous glory, this time under the guise of a convenience shopping centre meeting the everyday needs of the community.
Demolition work commenced in August 2020, a delayed start due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The construction process was like no other, with the pandemic and its disruptive inﬂuence being a passenger throughout.
Despite the plethora of challenges, the revamped 3Arts was completed by the end October 2021. The original structure was largely retained, with adjustments being made for its use as a convenience shopping centre. The building’s unique character remains intact.