Oh, the glory days of the Scala cinema in London’s Kings Cross! The big white wedding cake building on the corner of Pentonville Road with its double bills of arthouse, horror, trash and kitsch, its exuberant gatefold programmes and famous all-nighters…as they say of Swinging London, if you can remember it in detail, you weren’t there….
The Scala never showed just one film where two would do, and specialised in marathon back-to-back viewings for total film die-hards. In a way it was the pioneer of the themed screening, with say, a whole day of Elvis films or a 50s sci-fi marathon, or even a Hitchcock pentathlon!
Later on in its life these would be accompanied by late-night dance parties in the first floor lobby so you could move between film and frolicking, and it really was a place for sex and drugs and rock’n’roll with its velvety decor, big wide staircases and spacious seating, plus various dark little nooks and crannies to get up to no good in. Or possibly just fall asleep.
It had an air of that big old deserted house in “Rebel without a Cause”, full of kids just running around and exploring, and yet for all the partying the films were still always the focal point. I used to think it must be like the cinemas that the Surrealists visited, where watching a film felt like a social occasion and an act of worship all at once.
Films I saw there include:
A Touch of Evil
The Day the Earth Stood still
Un Chant d’Amour
Masque of the Red Death / The Raven
Kiss me Deadly
The Tin Drum
Double bill of Tarkovsky’s “Solaris” and “Mirror”
Triple bill of “Orphee”, “Testament d’Orphee” and “Sang d’un Poete”
Faster, Pussycat! Kill, Kill!
Pink Flamingoes / Female Trouble
Von Sternberg triple bill
Knife in the Water / Cul de Sac
Johnny Guitar / Rancho Notorious
L’Age d’Or / Un Chien Andalou / Los Olvidados
Various zombie movies
…and a gazillion other things that have slipped the memory.
So it is with great pleasure that we take part in “Scala Beyond”, a 6 week celebration of independent cinema across the land with the ethos of the old Scala cinema – check out their web calendar to get an idea of the original Scala programmes (so wish I’d kept them)
“Fill the land with cinemas!” is their war cry, and who are we to disagree?
Film clubs, small independent cinemas and one-off screenings are taking part throughout Britain as a kind of nationwide film festival, with an invitation to make your home a cinema on September 1st.
Scala Beyond starts today, Saturday 18th August, until 29th September. Don’t miss it! Check out their website or facebook page for more information. We’re in the calendar for September 2nd – see us there…