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Scala Cinema, remembering the most ludicrous place in London


Often described as one of the most ludicrous places in the capital, the Scala cinema in London’s King Cross is being remembered with a book by Jane Giles. The venue became synonymous with London’s underbelly and often played host to the heaviest doses of hedonism.

The club came to fruition out of a socialist collective which held court in Fitzrovia but with the arrival of Channel 4 in 1981 the group were moved out of their premise and instead found their home in King’s Cross – itself a notable spot for excess. There they fund their home at the Primatarium which was an old picture house and rock venue. It was here the group remained until 1993 where development and financial depravity meant the dream died.

Jane Giles’ new book ‘ Cinema 1978 -1993′ celebrates the group’s joy and sorrow perfectly. Below are some of the memories and moments from the weirdest place to watch a film ever. 

“In the summer of I was, like Viv, a teenager in the audience with a boyfriend’s arm around my shoulders. We were up from the sticks for a quintuple bill that included Assault on Precinct 13 and Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue. The intermission music was Love Will Tear Us Apart. That night I fell for the Scala’s incredible atmosphere and its eclectic mix of cult movies, horror, hardcore experimental and LGBT cinema, which became my unofficial film education.” – Jane Giles  


“The Scala had magic. It was like joining a very secret club, like a biker gang or something… They could show films uncut because they had memberships, well that’s insane! It’s like they were a country club for criminals and lunatics and people that were high,” John Waters said.

“Which is a good way to see movies,” he added.

“I often used to spend the whole night in the Scala, dozing towards the early hours with a boyfriend’s arm around me, drinking double vodkas. The Scala’s where I first saw the films of John Waters, Russ Meyer and Ingmar Bergman. I’ll never forget the first time I went there on my own, to see Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes. I was utterly entranced by the film and loved that I didn’t have anybody next to me to think about or be distracted by.

“I always felt safe at the Scala, so had no qualms about going there alone, whereas I wouldn’t have even considered it at any other cinema. I still remember almost every frame of that vivid, female-led film. I was at film school at the time, and seeing The Red Shoes that afternoon made such a deep impression on me that I went back to see all of Powell and Pressburger’s films and became a lifelong fan.” – Viv Albertine 


(All images via Jane Giles book Scala Cinema: 1978-1993)