‘A country club for criminals and lunatics and people that were high… ’
This was how the Pope of Trash John Waters described London’s Scala cinema, a hallowed venue beloved of film freaks but forced to close in 1993. The Scala’s deep roots were in the site of an old brewery in 18th century Fitzrovia, a concert hall which was rebuilt in 1905 as an ornate folly of a theatre. The Scala theatre housed both the birth of colour cinema and an exclusive year-long run of the racist epic Birth of a Nation, as well as onstage appearances by resident Bohemian Quentin Crisp, Kenneth Williams as a Lost Boy and Sean Connery, unplaced in the ‘Tall Men’ category of the Mr Universe competition, 1953. Fast-forward to 1976: the Fitzrovia site is occupied by a soon-to-be-bankrupt socialist film collective, but overtaken by a teenage punk who transformed it into the legendary and notorious Scala cinema.
Unique to the Miskatonic Institute, a cache of rare archival documents, architects’ plans, drawings, photographs and other ephemera will form the visual backdrop to a guided tour of the Scala, which moved from Fitzrovia to the defunct Primatarium in King’s Cross, 1981. Specialising in an alchemical mixture of horror, music and LGBT films, Psychotronic and Kung Fu, the Scala pushed back against censorship in all of its forms, culminating in a devastating law suit. The soundtrack to the lecture will feature the Scala’s jukebox and intermission music, 1978-1993.