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SCALA, King's Cross
(1920-1993)
275-277 Pentonville Road, London N1

Construction work on this cinema, designed by H. Courtney Constantine, was stopped by the outbreak of the Great War and it was used during the war as a factory and, later, a demob centre. It finally opened on 26th April 1920 as the King's Cross Cinema, with a spectacular first-night series of films backed by a 20-piece orchestra. It is a large building, 150 ft by 65 ft with a dome 65 ft high, the screen being 24 ft by 18 ft. There was a continous performance, prices of the 1390 seats ranging from 6d (2½p) to 1s 9d (9p).

Ownership changed frequently. In 1921 the cinema was acquired by the Davis Circuit and in 1926 by Associated Provincial Picture Houses, who themselves were taken over by Gaumont British Pictures in 1929. GBP, as was their custom, gave free Christmas shows for children with free toys, cakes and sweets. Damaged during the World War 2, the cinema was closed until 1952, when it reopened as the Gaumont, having been refurbished by architects T.P. Bennett and Sons. In 1962 it was renamed the Odeon and eight years later ceased business as a circuit cinema.

In 1971 it was relaunched as an "adult" cinema, renamed yet again as the Cineclub. This didn't last, and after only four months the name was changed yet again, back to the original King's Cross Cinema, and the cinema reverted to main circuit performances, with rock concerts at the weekend. After abortive plans to develop the building into a leisure complex, the cinema closed in 1975. In 1980 it reopened as an ecology exhibition but this soon folded, part of the building being converted into offices and a snooker hall.

The circle seats reopened as the Scala, which became an art house cinema when the Scala Cinema Club transferred from Tottenham Street in 1981. Some years later I went to the Scala one Saturday morning for a privately-organised Laurel and Hardy film convention and was impressed by the size of the place, though it was getting a bit run down. Later, the cinema was taken to court over an illegal showing of Stanley Kubrick's film A Clockwork Orange. This and a stiff rent increase finally finished the Scala as a cinema and in 1993 it became a nightclub.

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