Liverpool, L1 1JQ
Date opened: 31st January 1916
Date Closed: 24th August 1982
Owner: Sol Levy.
Architect: J S Bramwell.
First General Manager: Vivian van Damm
First film shown: “John Glayde’s Honour” and “Chip Off the Old Block“.
Final film shown: “Firefox” starring Clint Eastwood.
The Scala Super Cinema was opened on 31st January 1916. A purpose-built cinema, that was designed by J S Bramwell. It was built by B Cromwell Ltd. The “date of notice” to build was 6 April 1915. It was “signed-off” on 2nd February 1916. The estimated cost of the building was £14,000. The two directors were Sol Levy and E Haig
The first films screened were “John Glayde’s Honour” starring Aubrey Smith, plus “A Chip Off the Old Block”. The latter film starred the 10 year old son of Maurice Costello, hence the brother of Dolores & Helene Costello who both found fame in Hollywood.
Having a luxurious interior and grand artistic design it was promoted as a “Super Cinema”.
The cinema had a Classical style facade, and the auditorium was in an Egyptian style. Seating was provided for 400 in the stalls and 220 in the circle. The seating capacity altered with seats being added and taken away during the cinema’s lifetime.
The Scala (Liverpool) Ltd was formed to operate the cinema. The two directors of the company were Sol Levy and E Haigh. Licensee and general manager of the cinema from its opening was Vivian Van Damm who later became the manager of London’s famous Windmill Theatre in Soho when it opened in June 1931 remaining there until his death in December 1960.
In 1920 a new company was formed (Futurist Liverpool Ltd). The Scala and the Lime Street Picture House, which was next door, came under the control of the Levy Circuit. The Lime Street Picture House was renamed the Futurist.
During the silent movie era music accompaniment was provided by the Scala Symphony Orchestra. In the 20s, it boasted Jules Gaillard, violin virtuoso and his orchestra.
On the 29th of November 1926 Talking Pictures began a one week run of the Lee de Forest Phono films ( a series of short films). The following year sound was made a permanent feature when the RCA Photophone sound system was installed. The first full sound feature at the Scala was “Lucky Boy” starring George Jessell shown on 8th July 1929.
The cinema was damaged by German bombs in 1941 forcing it to close for six weeks while the damage was repaired.
In the early-to mid-1950’s, the Scala Cinema screened mainly second run films, together with ‘X’ certificate films. It was leased to Twentieth Century Fox in 1955. The auditorium was altered to accommodate CinemaScope, destroying most of the original Egyptian decorative scheme, to enable a wall-to-wall screen to be installed. It re-opened on 10th April 1955 with “Carmen Jones”.
By the end of the 1950’s there was not enough Twentieth Century Fox product to keep both cinemas running, and the Scala’s lease was taken over by Gala Film Distributors, screening Continental ‘X’ certificate films, and opened with “Sins of Youth” and the nudist film “Traveling Light”.
Gala left the building in 1962, and it continued the adult film policy under independent management until taken over by ABC on 3rd July 1967. The facade was ‘modernised’ to a plain facade with windows, and new signage stating ABC Scala EMI was installed.
When ABC/EMI tripled the ABC ex-Forum Cinema across the street they closed the Scala cinema on 24th August 1982, with Clint Eastwood in “Firefox”.
Five years later it re-opened as a nightclub and was followed by a succession of similar businesses before closing for the final time in October 2015.
The building was demolished in January of 2017