North East Wales

Prestatyn's Scala set to lose council cash help

King Kong premiere Image copyright Harry Thomas
Image caption 1933: North Wales premiere of King Kong draws a huge crowd at the Scala cinema

The future of a cinema and arts centre in Denbighshire remains uncertain after council officials said they could no longer continue to cover the company's £20,000 monthly wage bill.

The Scala in Prestatyn owes £60,000 to Denbighshire council as it has missed three months of payments.

The authority said it is considering ending the payroll agreement to stop putting "at risk large sums of public money".

Cinema bosses have refused to comment.

The Scala was given a £3.5m facelift when it opened its doors again after closing in 2000.

Last week, general manager Chris Bond said takings had been hit as the good summer weather kept people away.

The venue's trust board has been seeking specialist financial advice about how to change its fortunes.

Image caption The Scala was given a £3.5m facelift when it reopened its doors 2009

Under a credit agreement with the county council, the authority pays the venue's wages and the venue repays that money to the council. It is those payments which are now three months in arrears.

However, in 2010 the council gave the cinema and arts venue an £86,000 bail-out loan to cover a deficit and has yet to request repayment.

"The council can simply not continue to put at risk large sums of public money to underpin the Scala's financial deficit," said Rebecca Maxwell, Denbighshire council's corporate director economic and community ambition.

Image copyright Harry thomas
Image caption Saronie (pictured with wife Jane) opened the cinema in 1913

Scala history

A community campaign to restore and reopen the Scala began in February 2001, two months after it shut.

The Scala was originally built as the town hall in 1898.

Cinematography pioneer Saronie, whose real name was James Roberts, began showing films at the venue in 1900 by renting space but he took it over and converted it into a cinema in 1913.

It started showing its first colour pictures from 1915 and the first "talkie" picture in 1930, the same year the complex was enlarged.

Saronie ended his career in 1963, selling the Scala to the former Prestatyn Urban District Council.

Councillor Huw Jones, Denbighshire's cabinet lead member for leisure, said: "Despite all our efforts to support the Scala company, it appears to find itself in an unsustainable financial situation."

He said the authority has been "fully supportive of the Scala as an arts and cinema facility for the local community for many years" by helping with the payroll, providing a subsidy, assisting with marketing the venue and having a senior council member sit on the venue's board of trustees.

"We have asked time and time again for information from the board as to how they were going to address their financial situation and the kind of reassurances we expected have not been forthcoming," he said.

Image caption A campaign to reopen the Scala began soon after its closure in December 2000

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