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A historical chronology of Prestatyn’s Scala Cinema and Arts Centre

Thank you for your interest in our Prestatyn Scala Cinema chronology timeline.

1872James ‘Saronie’ Roberts was born in Liverpool.

An old photograph of Prestatyn High Street showing the Town Hall (the future location of the Scala Cinema).

An old photograph of Prestatyn High Street showing the Town Hall (the future location of the Scala Cinema).

1900 – July 26th. Prestatyn’s Town Hall opened, owned by a solicitor Mr Ffoulkes Roberts who practised at Denbigh.

1901 – Auditorium added.

1910 – James Roberts rented and began screening films at Prestatyn’s Town Hall under the name of Saronie’s Enterprises. On 5th July 1913, Saronie published a Preliminary Announcement of the Grand Re-opening of the Prestatyn Town Hall. The advertisement promoted Saronies as “Electric with good Music. The Proprietor [was] direct from Saronie City Enterprises” and the announcement promised “Matinees on Wet Days and Every Saturday at 3”, “The Pioneer of Animated Photography” and “Continous Performances from 7 to 10” with a “Complete change of Program every Monday and Thursday of all Star Pictures”.

James Saronie Roberts, Scala Cinema pioneer taken by his wife photographer, Jane.

A portrait of James Saronie Roberts, Scala Cinema pioneer taken by his wife photographer, Jane.

1910 – Roberts screened the funeral of the late King Edward VII. The state funeral of Edward VII, King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Emperor of India, occurred on Friday, 20 May 1910. His funeral procession is said to have been one of the first occasions when colour news film, Kinemacolor, was used. Kinemacolor was the first successful colour motion picture process, used commercially from 1908 to 1914. It was invented by George Albert Smith of Brighton, England in 1906, and launched by Charles Urban’s Urban Trading Co. of London in 1908. From 1909 on, the process was known as Kinemacolor. It was a two-colour additive colour process, photographing and projecting a black-and-white film behind alternating red and green filters.

1912 – James Roberts changed his name to Saronie as he felt it was more impressive in his work as a cinematographer.

1913 – Saronie had taken over the Town Hall and renamed it the Scala Cinema.

1915 – May. Saronie showed the first colour film of Prestatyn at the Scala. He also showed films to the troops from Kinmel Camp, an army training ground in what was once the grounds of Kinmel Hall, near Abergele.

1930 – March. Saronie showed his first ‘talkie’ picture at the Scala Cinema. In the same year, Saronie modernised and enlarged the Cinema. Seating for 400 people was installed.

1933 – The classic 1933 monster movie King Kong remembered for its pioneering special effects using stop motion models, retrospect animatronics and the evocative story had its North Wales premier at Prestatyn’s Scala Cinema (pictured here) with queues extending halfway up the High Street.

The film King Kong had its North Wales premier at the Scala in 1933.

The film King Kong had its North Wales premier at the Scala in 1933.

1963 – Saronie ended his cinema career, selling the Scala to Prestatyn Urban District Council, which would later become Prestatyn Town Council.

1964 – The Scala’s fascia and arches were covered with the ‘modern’ blue and green frontage it sported until 2000 and the building’s clock tower was removed. The large window surrounds and brick archways were substantially destroyed.

1967 June 16th Saronie sadly passed away from a stroke at his home at ‘Hillcourt’, Mount Ida Road, Prestatyn. He was buried at nearby Meliden Church.

The sad sight of Prestatyn's much loved Scala Cinema before demolition to make way for the new Scala.

The sad sight of Prestatyn’s much-loved Scala Cinema before demolition to make way for the new Scala.

2000 December. Prestatyn’s Scala Cinema was forced to close for safety reasons due to deteriorating structural conditions, after screening its final film How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

2001 February. Public Meeting at the Nova. Agreed to set up a Scala Advisory Group with representation from all key interests in the community. The Advisory Group would provide a sounding board and a steer for the project. A revised application was submitted for Arts Lottery funding to carry out the Scala Feasibility Study and initial public consultations were carried out via a questionnaire survey.

2001 March. Friends of the Scala were set up to lobby councillors and get the cinema re-opened. The first meeting of the Scala Advisory Group and Arts Council for Wales awarded the Lottery grant for Scala Feasibility Study.

2001 May. Further deterioration of the structural condition of the building was discovered. External scaffolding was required to support the main auditorium.

2001 July. The structural condition of the auditorium continued to deteriorate. The decision was eventually taken to demolish the auditorium. In November, a draft ‘Vision’ document for the new Scala was agreed by the Advisory Group and published for comments followed by a public meeting.

2002 November. BBC Wales News announced on Thursday, 21 November 2002 that Local residents were being encouraged to attend meetings of the Scala Advisory Group, which had been set up to determine the future of the project. The news article stated that Denbighshire councillors now plan to commission a second, more detailed study into the renovation proposals, which would also seek to play an important educational role within the town. Funding for the project was also being sought.

2003 December 9th. New twin-screen cinema plans revealed on BBC Wales News, designed by London-based architects Burrel Foley Fischer. A community room, a studio for theatre use, a visual arts gallery, a café bar and improved access for the disabled are included.

2003 January. On Saturday, 25 January 2003, various sources including BBC News Wales announced that the Scala Advisory Group agreed to set up a charitable company to manage and operate the proposed new cinema. A second, more detailed study into the renovation proposals, was commissioned and cost in the region of £50,000 to look at how much money the Scala would be expected to make upon opening.

2003 November. On Thursday, 6 November 2003, BBC News Wales published an article entitled Cinema revamp goes on display. It stated that a cinema famed as one of the first venues to show moving pictures had moved a step closer to reopening with proposals costing £2.4m to redevelop the cinema including creating an arts centre, a cafe bar and improved access for disabled users. On 11 November, plans for the new Scala cinema in Prestatyn would go on display at the town’s library.

2004 February. BBC News Wales published an article on Wednesday, 25 February 2004 named Revamp for Scala cinema. The article confirmed that Prestatyn’s cinema was famed as one of the first UK venues to show moving pictures would reopen after councillors voted in favour of modernising the venue.

The £2.4m plans for the old Scala cinema include pulling down part of the old white and blue facade to make way for elegant arched windows. A community room, studio for theatre use, visual arts gallery and cafe bar are included in the scheme for the old Victorian landmark. A 150-seat cinema and a second part-time cinema will also be built.

It stated that on Wednesday (5th November 2004), Denbighshire councillors voted in favour of the scheme subject to conservation area consent from CADW, the agency which preserves Welsh heritage.

The cinema closed more than three years ago because of structural damage. Melanie Pitt, who worked at the cinema for seven years as a projectionist, said she was “over the moon” that it is to receive a new lease on life. “It’s brilliant. There’s nothing for anybody to do here,” she said. “The kids have started hanging around the streets since it’s been closed and there’s nothing for the adults to do either.”

The article said it was hoped that the revamped Scala would open in around 18 months.

2004 October 18th BBC Wales News article Cash boost for cinema revamp. The Welsh Assembly Government awarded a cash boost for the project providing Denbighshire Council with £200,000.

2005 October. The long-running campaign was been boosted by the offer of a £1.5m grant by the Welsh Assembly Government’s Physical Regeneration Fund, offered to Denbighshire County Council. The total cost of the regeneration scheme is now estimated to be around £3.5m.

2006 May 25th DCC issued a press statement announcing that they were moving forward with the next phase of four major projects including the Scala Cinema. Cllr Paul Marfleet, Lead Member for Finance said “The Scala Arts Centre project plays a pivotal role in the regeneration of the town.”, despite publicly voting against proceeding with the project 6 months later.

2006 September 19th. DCC issued a statement stating the people of Prestatyn have been given two months to prove that they can make the Scala work as a community project. Denbighshire County Council unanimously decided to give Prestatyn Town Council and residents until November to prove that they can take forward the project. Pending that decision, the allocation previously made for the project should be moved elsewhere. The decision came following a thorough debate on the Capital Plan in which nearly twenty members spoke and which resulted in the unanimous decision. Journal Press Article.

2006 September. Sandra Pitt, Chairperson of Friends of the Scala thanked the Councillors who represent Prestatyn, for their support in our campaign to re-open the new Scala Cinema, Arts Centre, Live Theatre and Café Bar. She called community effort to assist in the fundraising and to show support for the new Scala. Street collections, supported by Prestatyn’s Environmental Association and CoastFM Radio helped raise funding and awareness.

2006 October. Friends of the Scala and Prestatyn and District Environmental Association delivered voting forms to as many Prestatyn households as possible. Support was overwhelming.

2006 November 4th. Ann Jones AM collected the vote forms from the Friends of the Scala (see photo). The votes were taken by Ann Jones to be presented to Edwina Hart AM, Minister at the National Assembly.

2006 November. Friends of the Scala launched their official website to generate support and raise awareness online.

2006 November. At a private meeting, Prestatyn councillors unanimously pledged to contribute up to £1 million towards the Scala project. However, the move depended on whether Denbighshire County Council, at a crucial meeting on November 21, would choose to support the £3.4 million scheme. If they decided to scrap plans for the facility, then £1.5 million in Assembly grants would be lost. Read more.

2006 November. Friends of the Scala was successful in becoming an officially registered Charity.

2006 November 21st. Denbighshire County Council voted yes to the new Scala going ahead at their Cabinet meeting. Campaigning had finally paid off. Read the full DCC Press Statement. See who supported your Scala Cinema and Arts Centre.

2007 January 24th. DCC confirmed the Scala funding was finally fully secured and that construction work would start by March 2007.

2007 January. DCC confirmed that a contractor had been chosen. Dave Bellfield from R.L. Davies Ltd of Colwyn Bay, said: “We are delighted to have secured the contract to build the new Scala Cinema and Arts Centre, as we know how much this scheme means to the people of Prestatyn.” Read more.

2007 February. Work commences on the new Prestatyn Scala Cinema!

2007 March 13th. Community call for Scala! Denbighshire County Council issued a press statement reporting local people are being given the opportunity to get involved with planning for its opening. Read more.

Prestatyn’s new Scala Cinema and Arts Centre, construction began in February 2007 and the building re-opened to the public on February 13th, 2009.

Prestatyn’s new Scala Cinema and Arts Centre, construction began in February 2007 and the building re-opened to the public on February 13th, 2009.

2008 September 22nd. Handover from RL Davies (the contractor) to Denbighshire County Council took place on Monday the 22nd of September 2008.

2009 February 13th. Brand new Scala Cinema and Arts Centre opened to the public.

2010 November. Scala Cinema and Arts Centre won the ‘Community Benefit’ award at the RICS 2010 Awards.

2014 October. Scala Cinema and Arts Centre faces closure and launches the Save Our Scala campaign to raise funding of £97,000.

2015 January 8th. Trust members of the Scala Cinema and Arts Centre confirmed that the venue is closed and will only re-open if funds are found.

2015 January 29th. Denbighshire County Council confirmed that the Scala Board has agreed in principle to hand back the building’s lease and the keys following a formal request from the Council’s legal representatives and is now in a position to be able to seek serious expressions of interest from experienced operators to re-open the venue as soon as practically possible.

2015 March 5th. Denbighshire and Prestatyn Town Council announced Aurora Leisure Ltd as the new leaseholders of the Scala, with the intention to have the building open by the beginning of April with a view to being fully operational by mid-May (2015).

2015 July 2nd. Aurora Leisure Ltd, run by Rob Arthur reopened the Scala Cinema.

2016 January 18th. The Friends of the Scala donated their remaining funds to the Prestatyn Carnival Committee following the decision to fold the charity. The decision was taken because, as a registered charity, the Friends of the Scala could no longer support the Scala cinema since it had become a commercial enterprise. The former website (this website) of the Friends was retained by its creator to preserve items of history and content.