Skip to main content

Potential MU purchase of Scala hampered by lack of clarity over building condition

Masaryk University is unsure about the actual condition of the Scala building after the city offered to sell the cinema premises to MU.

The Scala University Cinema building

A structural survey of the Scala University Cinema building revealed serious defects that will not allow it to reopen after the summer holidays. Now Brno City Hall has made an offer to Masaryk University to buy the building – which also houses the Bolek Polívka Theatre – for a symbolic price of 1 CZK. The building on Moravské náměstí also includes office spaces which are owned by a different entity.

“The possibility of buying the Scala University Cinema was raised during Wednesday’s meeting with the Mayor, but we have not yet received the offer in writing. We believe that the City of Brno has demonstrated its willingness to ensure that the building isn’t sold for commercial purposes in the future. We are also aware of the value of this unique space, which we helped to save from being closed down ten years ago. At the moment, however, we still don’t know the actual condition of the building, which will determine the estimated cost of the reconstruction,” said Rector Martin Bareš.

The structural and technical survey, which is intended to reveal the condition of the building and the extent of the necessary reconstruction, began its first phase on 1 July and will run until the end of September. The second phase of the survey is scheduled to continue from January 2024. However, by mid-August, the structural defects had already proven so serious that neither the Scala University Cinema nor the Bolek Polívka Theatre could be reopened to the public before the end of the year. Scala is home to many of Masaryk University’s activities: in addition to teaching, it is used for conferences, ceremonial events and the third role of the university, which is why the issue of finding substitute premises was also the subject of a meeting between Rector Martin Bareš and Mayor Markéta Vaňková. “We are looking for a solution in the form of adequate space where we could continue to work,” said MU Rector Martin Bareš.

Previous talks with the Brno authorities have indicated that the Bolek Polívka Theatre, which has the same problem as the Scala University Cinema, should be moved to the Břetislav Bakala Hall in Brno’s Bílý dům. The Mayor ruled out the possibility that MU could also use the venue.

In addition to teaching, Scala University Cinema is used for conferences, and ceremonial events.

“The Scala University Cinema is a unique meeting space for the University and it has managed to preserve its original purpose as a cinema and a cultural hub. This is our know-how, which is unique and almost non-transferable,” said Jiří Hanuš, MU Vice-Rector for Personnel and Academic Affairs. “We would like to preserve its continuity, which is why we have turned to the Ministry of Culture for help in this difficult situation,” added Vice-Rector Jiří Hanuš.

“We are currently in talks with the Tourist and Information Centre of Brno, which agreed to reserve the Art cinema for our morning courses. However, we are aware that it is a cinema with a specific programme, its own dramaturgy and visitor facilities, and we don’t want to interfere with its operations,” said MU Bursar Marta Valešová. “We were surprised by the fact that the city authorities would not restore the building that houses the Scala University Cinema and the Bolek Polívka Theatre. The University Cinema Scala is not only a place for education, lectures and conferences at MU, we also use it for screening university spots and during the campaign for applicants. The basic role of the university is education, science and research,” added Ms Valešová, adding that Masaryk University does not yet know the extent of the damage to the Scala building and lacks sufficiently precise information about the potential costs of reconstruction, which could be very high.

“Masaryk University is very successful in obtaining project funds. For example, with regard to the use of EU funding, we are the most successful academic institution in the Czech Republic. We are ready to involve our top project capacities in the search for resources to support Scala. However, we are limited by the fact that this does not qualify as a field of education or research,” said MU Rector Martin Bareš.