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Prestatyn's Scala cinema and arts centre revival continues

Scala Prestatyn
The Scala is now a community facility as well as cinema and arts centre

By Daniel Graham from Friends of the Scala
As Prestatyn's Scala cinema and arts centre receives a national award for its community facilities, Daniel looks back at its history

By 1910 the pioneer of cinematography, Saronie (real name James Roberts) was showing pictures at the Scala which was originally built as Prestatyn Town Hall in 1898.

Firstly, he rented the town hall space for exhibitions of animated, or moving, pictures. Then, later in 1913, Saronie took over the town hall, converting it into a cinema, and by 1914 had renamed it the Scala Cinema.

As early as 1915 he was showing the first colour pictures of Prestatyn on the big screen. He also showed the first 'talkie' picture as early as March 1930. During this year the Scala was enlarged and modernised.

Old Scala tickets
A campaign to save the building started in 2001 after its closure

Saronie was seen in the auditorium at every performance, making sure that courting couples did nothing more than discreetly hold hands.

With his flowing locks of white hair and his waxed, pointed, white moustache, he was well known to generations of Prestatyn's cinema goers.

He ended his career in 1963, selling the Scala to the Prestatyn Urban District Council because, sadly, Saronie had no children to carry on his exciting work in cinematography. He died in 1967 of a stroke at his home in Prestatyn.

One of the first films to be shown at the Scala was an epic of its time: 'All quiet on the Western Front'.

The Scala, the more popular of the two cinemas in Prestatyn and the oldest, had customers running all the way of the High Street for the first showing on the coast of 'King Kong'.

The other cinema, the Palladium, was built in 1920 and closed its doors in 1979 and was demolished.

But the Scala lived on, continuously showing films from the day it opened as a cinema, until December 2000 when it was closed due to problems with the structure.

In February 2001, there was a public meeting held with more than 300 people attending to show support for their much-loved cinema.

Also, a petition was handed to Denbighshire Council backing the rebuild of the Scala to its former glory.

In March 2001 the Friends of the Scala was set up. Work on the renovation began in early 2007 and the Scala re-opened in February 2009.

Special award

In March 2010 the building was recognised by the Civic Trust Awards set up to recognise the "very best in architecture, design, planning, landscape and public art".

The citation reads: "The strength of this project is its strong community base in providing a multi-role facility whilst preserving a well regarded part of the local heritage."

Big screen flickers back to life
13 Feb 09 |  North east

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