Building History

scala-exterior-daytime-bw-yellowBuilt to the design of H Courtney Constantine, the Kings Cross Cinema (Scala), was nearing completion when the First World War to began. The partially completed cinema was first used to manufacture airplane parts, and after 1918 as a local labour exchange for demobilized soldiers returning from the war.

Finally completed, the Kings Cross Cinema opened on April 1920. Seating over 1000 people, the auditorium offered a three-hour program, accompanied by a 20-piece orchestra.

At the end of the 1920’s, under the control of Gaumont British Pictures, the cinema staged lavish free Christmas shows for local children – endearing a whole generation.

The King’s Cross Cinema was damaged in air-raids during the Blitz. New owners refurbished the cinema, now called the Gaumont, and it reopened in March 1952. In 1962, the Gaumont became the Odeon and continued to screen mainstream pictures until 1970.

In February 1971, the cinema embarked on a short-lived experiment showing adult films. Soon after it reverted to the King’s Cross Cinema and mainstream features returned. In addition to the programs of films, the venue became a live, all-night, rock venue. Iggy Pop and Hawkwind have played at the Scala. In 1974, this bold move came to an end when the cinemas late-night license was revoked, petitioned by the local residents. Soon after it closed.

Five years later, the King’s Cross Cinema, became a Primatarium. The stalls were reconstructed to resemble a forest. The project failed and on July 1981 the cinema returned as Scala, featuring the classic 1933 version of King Kong on opening night.

The Scala Cinema went on to become one of London’s most famous repertory/art house cinemas. In 1993 the Scala Cinema Club went into receivership after losing a court case over an illegal screening of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.

Scala reopened in March 1999 after a radical transformation which included an additional 2 floors. King’s Cross once again plays host to a vibrant and important cultural meeting place, embodied in which is the long and colorful history of both the Scala Cinema Club and The King’s Cross Cinema.

More about the Scala Cinema 1979 – 1993 at theguardian.com

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