The Scala London Underground Film Map 1916 – 2016, Part I

London’s radicals, underworlds and counter-cultures over a century of cinema

The Beatle's 1964 'A Hard Day's Night' filmed at the Scala Theatre, Goodge Street. In the Eighties, this was the site of the first Scala film club.

The Beatle’s 1964 ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ filmed at the Scala Theatre, Goodge Street. In the Eighties, this was the site of the first Scala film club.

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Ever wondered how the London Underground programmed by the Scala – the legendary film club that was once at King’s Cross in the Eighties – would look?

Wonder no more: in homage to Scalarama – a national festival of cinemas of every conceivable size and variety, held in the UK each September – we’ve made a map of the British capital’s underground cinema century. There are 267 stories in the naked city of London (if you leave out DLR and Overground) and here they all are.

The main inspiration for the map came from the legacy of the Scala cinema itself.

John Waters said of his one visit to the Scala:

It was like joining a club, a very secret club, like a biker gang or something. I remember the audience was even more berserk than any midnight show I had ever seen in America. Maybe they were on ecstasy, I don’t know, but it was a really raucous audience. It was so great – but it was almost scary.

Co-founder Stephen Woolley (who went on to produce ‘Scandal’, on the map at Lancaster Gate, and ‘Made in Dagenham’, at Plaistow) has said of his role in the film club’s formation, after stints working at Screen on the Green in Islington and managing the more consciously political The Other Cinema:

I had, in the meantime, discovered two cinemas in America whose programmes I greatly admired: the Nuart in Los Angeles, and the Roxy in San Francisco. They both showed a smorgasborg of movies presented in a stylish way with a diary-like programme […]

I had fire in my belly and wanted to create an alternative NFT, where you could laugh at Buñuel, weep at Sirk and scream at George Romero. In that first month we showed all-night Judy Garland classics and a celebration of Gay Pride Week shoulder to shoulder with macho men such as Toshiro Mifune, Robert Mitchum and John Wayne.

We put on double bills, triple bills, all nighters on Friday and Saturday, and had a fully licensed bar with the best jukebox in London; the original venue in London’s Charlotte Street became a magnet for all sorts: New Romantics, off-duty policemen eager for a dose of Clint Eastwood, Chilean refugees, rockabillies, and Divine fans lapping up Pink Flamingos.


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