Future of Brno’s Iconic Scala Cinema Hangs In The Balance

Pending a structural assessment of the building, the theatre and cinema may be able to continue operating in their current premises until the end of 2023. Photo credit: Brno City Municipality. 

Brno, 17 May (BD) – Following their brief closure in February for emergency repair works, the futures of Kino Scala on Moravske namesti and the Bolek Polivka Theatre on Jakubske namesti have been the subject of intense discussions between the city council and the operators of the venues, amid strong pressure from the public to find a solution that preserves both institutions.

The council announced this week that, pending a structural assessment of the building, both the theatre and the cinema may be able to continue operating in their current premises until the end of 2023, allowing more time to find new premises.

However, there is significant public concern that no such solution will be found for the cinema, which has been operating in its current building since the 1920s and forms a major part of the city’s cultural life. Around 10,000 people have signed a petition entitled “Let’s Give Scala a Chance”, and Žit Brno, the opposition party on Brno city council, unsuccessfully tabled a motion this week urging the council to commit to relocating both institutions for the duration of the repairs, and moving them both back into the building after the work is complete. 

The council’s original proposal that the Bolek Polivka Theatre could share use of the Reduta Theatre with the Brno National Theatre (NdB) company met with a strong backlash from the public and NdB director Martin Glaser. The revised proposal envisages moving the theatre to new premises in the Břetislav Bakala Hall, in the White House on Žerotínovo namesti, with suggestions that it could become a permanent relocation.

However, those campaigning to save the cinema complain that no such efforts are being made to find it a new home. “Scala is an irreplaceable part of Brno. We do not understand how the municipality could allow the residents of the city to lose this jewel,” said Ondřej Kocar and Dalibor Jelínek, members of the committee organising the petition.

This week, Mayor of Brno Marketa Vankova acknowledged that the search for replacement premises was moving slowly. “The situation is complicated by the fact that an adequate place with the same facilities and capacity is not available in Brno. It would certainly have to be a considerable compromise,” she said.  

Žit Brno’s Matej Hollan says that the council has been aware of the reconstruction of the building since 2020, and that the two institutions are not being treated equally. He argued that the Břetislav Bakala Hall, which also hosts film screenings, is in fact a more appropriate home for the cinema, whereas various other buildings in Brno could more easily be adapted to house the theatre. 

“Based on consultations with many actors, we are convinced that the only possible replacement space for the cinema is the Břetislav Bakala Hall, which is built as a lecture and cinema hall,” he said. “The city does not have others. On the contrary, this hall is completely unsuitable for theatre productions, unlike many other cultural houses in the city.”

This week, Martin Bareš, Rector of Masaryk University, which operates the cinema, struck an optimistic tone: “It’s really heartening to see how many people are interested in the fate of Scala. I can assure the public and the academic community that negotiations on possible solutions are conducted practically continuously and very intensively. I also appreciate the city’s efforts to find a solution in the form of alternative spaces.”

However, in a Facebook post yesterday, Hollan claimed that the council’s refusal to support a motion committing to rehousing Scala in the building indicated that the council instead intends to sell the building, which would in all likelihood mean the end of Kino Scala’s 100-year history.

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