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A., there was the Europa, the Park and the Uptown Adult — all of which began life showing Hollywood blockbusters but ultimately turned to porn. Englender, an archivist who founded the website Adsausage.com, which is devoted to chronicling vintage advertising (including that of theaters), tells me that the Studs began life in the ’40s as the Monica.
And there were numerous branches of the famed Pussycat Theater, a chain of 50-plus adult movie houses clustered around Southern California. Then it “moved into saucy Euro imports,” which was followed by “X-rated stuff.” Over the course of its life it was known as the Leftbank Theatre and the Tomkat.
In the age of the Internet, the idea of watching porn in an actual movie house might seem like a quaint act from another era — like pumping water or dialing up AOL. This is why my first — and, until recently, my only — trip to a porn theater was to see “The Tin Drum.”Based on a novel by Günter Grass, the Oscar-winning film about a boy who refuses to grow played at a local The Cine Windsor, a faded 1940s movie house with frayed carpets and worn seats, screened a mix of pornography and anything considered too avant-garde in the nudity department.
At a recent party of 30- and 40-year-olds, someone asked how many people had been to a porn theater. Films at the Windsor (like many adult cinemas) screened back-to-back, so the previous film was still playing when we arrived to watch “The Tin Drum.” I can’t remember the name or the plot.
Certainly, to use the word “theater” to describe the Tiki is a stretch.
On a hot Thursday afternoon, we pay the admission fee and are soon enveloped by the groans of frantic copulation. Smith, who does straight porn and describes himself as a “nihilist porn actor who wears all black,” tells me about seeing himself on the big screen for the first time. and it’s like, omigod.”At the Q&A afterward, moviegoers in the largely German audience asked earnest questions about positions and aesthetics.
Smith turns to me and says, “Well, the smell doesn’t disappoint.” The air in the lobby harbors the distinct aroma of men’s bathroom and disinfectant. It was in Germany, at the annual Porn Film Festival Berlin, where he was presenting his first adult movie, “Barbed Wire Kiss,” from 2006.“It’s in this beautiful theater — they serve tea and beer in a mug,” he recalls. But going to a porn house, says Smith, isn’t really about watching the movie.
It was when porn made casual appearances in Hollywood films, such as the scene in “Taxi Driver,” from 1976, when Robert De Niro takes Cybill Shepard to see a Swedish porn documentary at an adult movie house in Times Square. There was a real effort to get middle-class consumers to go, and also women.”Nina Hartley, an adult star who has appeared in more than 1,000 adult movies — a few of which were shot on actual film — went to see her first adult film at a theater in Berkeley during that era.
And it was a period when even The Times ran advertising for porn theaters. She was 17.“It was the ’70s, it was very sex-positive,” she says.