Celebrating The Scala
Earlier I posted about the return of the repertory film house, and lo and behold, I discover we’re in the middle of – well, if not a return, certainly a celebration that’s been going on all month across London.
The Scala Cinema began on Scala Street just off Tottenham Court Road. It had a stained screen and a cafe with red and blue plastic tablecloths, and sold booze, and showed double bills like ‘Thundercrack’ and ‘Eraserhead’. It moved to a huge old building in King’s Cross that had lately been called The London Primatarium – a monkey house. Typically, the new Scala showed ‘King Kong’ there, so you could get the smell as well. A lot of famous people introduced their weird film shows, and even more were found drunk or making out in the all-night bar. One time, one of the cinema cats got stuck in the middle of the screen during an Ingmar Bergman movie. I virtually lived in the place.
The Scala was always in trouble. It never made money, but Londoners loved its weird mix of erudition and schlock. Now, a festival called ‘Scala Forever’ is running all over town, with some of their maddest old films mixed with new ones, and there’s a lovely brochure that comes with it, filled with mad memories of the place, with articles by everyone from Jane Giles to John Waters. I went along last night and saw trailers for stuff like this, apparently a film with the worst-ever subtitles, including a moment where the police chief hands over a report and says “Read this among Your calves”. The Scala lives on at the new Scala Forever website.