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But it is perhaps most famous for its turn as a Pussycat Theater in the ’70s and ’80s.“In the history of adult film, that is one of the most important spaces in North America,” says Peter Alilunas, a professor of media studies at the University of Oregon, who is also the author of “Smutty Little Movies: The Creation and Regulation of Adult Video.” “Multiple canonical films premiered there.
It’s Smithsonian-level history when it comes to adult theaters.”The theater — along with the entire Pussycat chain — came of age during the so-called “Golden Age of Porn,” a period from the late ’60s to the early ’80s, when pornography became a more accepted part of popular culture.
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.
“Deep Throat” played for a decade in Los Angeles at various Pussycat Theaters — along with a host of the era’s other popular porn films, including “The Opening of Misty Beethoven” and “Behind the Green Door.”Moreover, for the LGBTQ community, gay porn houses became a kind of safe space.“They weren’t just theater spaces,” says Mike Stabile, a spokesperson for the Free Speech Coalition, a trade association for the adult industry, and director of the documentary “Smut Capital of America.” “You could go in and have these experiences and they were anonymous.”“Being a young gay man, it’s tremendously nerve-racking, but there was something about the theater,” he says, “that is closed off from the rest of the world.”To some degree, this is a purpose the Studs still serves. Over time, he made upgrades and partitioned the building into multiplex.Englender says the location served as a mini-market and later a liquor store before being converted into a porn house sometime in the late 1970s.Certainly, to use the word “theater” to describe the Tiki is a stretch.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.