Scala – Lime Street
The Scala was built in 1915 on Lime Street, next to the Futurist. At the time, it was herald as “The SuperCinema of the Mersey City” for its expensive furnishings and the artistic architecture of JS Bramwell. The facade of the building was adorned with three stories white terracotta. Three sets of doors led to a mosaic floored foyer and onto a white marble staircase which lead to the elegant first floor lounge. The Egyptian-style decorations on the walls and the proscenium were iconic features of the Scala Cinema.
The grand opening of the Scala occurred on the 31st of January, 1916 and used the event to promote a charity drive for widows and orphans of sailors and soldiers. The event raised £70. The opening programme included the films John Glayde’s Honour and the comedy Chip Off the Old Block, with music by the Scala Symphony Orchestra.
Price of admission was very high for the times at 65, and 1/6, but the balcony seating was 2/-; this policy encouraged high class patrons.
In 1920 the Futurist bought up the Scala, forming the Futurist (Liverpool) Ltd and the sister cinemas shared almost the same directors. It was together that Scala and the Futurist introduced sound films to Liverpool.
On the 29th of November, 1926 they began a one week run of the Lee de Forest Phono films. The following year sound was made a permanent feature with the instillation of RCS Photophone systems.
In the early thirties both theatre’s lost first runs to the major theatre circuit, becoming second run picture houses.
In 1941 the Scala and the Futurist were damaged in the air raids but after 6 months of repairs the Scala theatre was reopened.
Over time the Scala changed from second runs to off-circuit films to x rated French films in 1954-55. Things turned around in 1955 when the Scala was leased to Twentieth Century Fox for first runs of CinemaScope films with stereophonic sound. However, this only last for about 5 years before the company reverted to its older policies before being sold to Gala International.
Gala re-styled the space as Merseyside’s Continental Theatre which opened on the 15th of May, 1960 with Sins of Youth and Travelling Light an X rated double feature which drew nearly 30,000 patrons during the first month. Gala did not last long, but after they left in 1962 the Scala continued to be host to many adult films. In 1967 ABC/EMI took control of the cinema and in the process modernized the exterior and decorations.
Over the next 15 years the Scala stayed in operation but due to the smaller size never was a high priority for distribution.
Both the Futurist and the Scala were eventual closed in the early 1980. The building stayed in disuse for five years before being being converted to a nightclub. Since that time the site of the former Scala has existed as a variety of bars and dance clubs.
Our Reel Heroes film Features the late Eric Norgate – Chief projectionist at the Futurist and the Scala
Eric Norgate – at the Museum of Liverpool
“I remember they used to show X Rated films here and we used to call people who went to see them the Macintosh brigade”
Take a look at the Flickr album;