Lost Adult Theaters of New York:
Then and Now

Lost Adult Theaters of New York: <br />Then and Now

Over the last three years, The Rialto Report has considered the films, filmmakers and actors from the golden age of adult film.

But what about the adult theaters in which they were shown?

In this Rialto Report, we visit 34 of the former grindhouses in the Times Square area.

What happened to these movie palaces, and how are they being used today?

 

Note: Hold down your mouse on the central slider for each picture, and slide either left or right to see the full ‘before’ or ‘after’ picture.

 

With special thanks to Cinema Treasures, Mitch O’Connell and Matt Weber. Visit their sites; they are well worth it.

Descriptions below come from Screw magazine.

________________________________________________________________________________________

Map of selected Adult Theaters in the Times Square area

 

Adonis Theatre

Adonis

Note: Hold down your mouse on the central slider for each picture below, and slide either left or right to see the full ‘before’ or ‘after’ picture.

 

 

Adonis

 

*

 

 

Anco Theatre

254 West 42nd Street
770 seats

 

 

*

 

 

Apollo Theatre

223 West 42nd Street
1,197 seats

 

*

 

 

Avon 42nd Street Theatre

Avon 42nd St

 

Whatever Happened to Miss September

*

 

 

Avon 7

Avon 7

 

Avon 7, Devil in Miss Jones

*

 

 

Avon at the Hudson

Avon at the Hudson

 

Avon at Hudson

*

 

 

Big Apple Theatre

1482 Broadway
600 seats

 

*

 

 

Big Top Cinema

Big Top Cinema

 

Big Top Cinema

*

 

 

Bryant Theatre

Bryant

 

 

*

 

 

Cameo Theater

Cameo

 

 

Kama Sutra

*

 

 

Capri Cinema

Capri, Adult Theaters

 

Adult Theaters, Capri

*

 

 

Cine 1 & 2

711 Seventh Avenue
488 seats

 

*

 

 

Circus Cinema

Circus, Adult Theaters

 

 

Adult Theaters, Sleepyhead

*

 

 

Doll Theater

Doll Theater

 

 

*

 

 

Eros Theatre

Adult Theaters, Eros

 

Eros, Adult Theaters

*

 

 

Fantasy Twin Theatres

711 Seventh Avenue
488 seats

 

*

 

 

Frisco Theater

Adult Theaters, Frisco

 

*

 

 

Gaiety Burlesk

Adult Theaters, Gaiety

 

Gaiety, Adult Theaters

*

 

 

Globe Theatre

Adult Theaters, Globe

 

 

*

 

 

Harem Theatre

Adult Theaters, Harem

 

 

*

 

 

Hollywood Twin Cinema

Adult Theaters, Hollywood

 

 

*

 

 

Le Sex Shoppe

125 West 42nd Street

 

*

 

 

Love Theater

Adult Theaters, Love

 

Adult Theaters, Love

*

 

 

Peepland

711 Seventh Avenue
488 seats

 

*

 

 

Pix Theater

121 West 42nd Street
820 seats

 

*

 

 

Playpen Theatre

693 Eighth Avenue
598 seats

 

*

 

 

Pussycat Cinema

Adult Theaters, Pussycat

 

 

*

 

 

Rialto Theatre

Adult Theaters, Rialto

 

 

Rialto, Story of Joanna

*

 

 

Show Follies Center

711 Seventh Avenue
488 seats

 

*

 

 

Show Palace Theatre

670 Eighth Avenue
74 seats

 

*

 

 

Times Theatre

554 seats

 

 

 

*

 

 

Venus Theater

Adult Theaters, Venus

 

Venus, Adult Theaters

*

 

 

Victory Theatre

Adult Theaters, Victory

 

 

*

 

 

World Theatre

Adult Theaters, World

 

 

Sexual Practices in Sweden

 

*

 

 

42nd Street – 1

Looking east towards the Bryant Theater

 

*

 

 

42nd Street – 2

Looking west towards the Rialto and the Victory Theaters

 

Diversions, Adult Theaters

*

 

 

42nd Street – 3

Looking east towards the Harem Theater

 

*

 

 

Eighth Avenue

Looking north towards the Eros Theater (on right)

 

Sexual Freedom in Denmark

*

 

 

Broadway

Looking south across 49th Street towards the Circus Cinema

 

*

 

 

Times Square

Looking north towards Howard Johnsons and the Forum

 

*

 

 

52 Comments

  1. Liam · May 8, 2016 Reply

    Wow…. 40 years or so has never so long or so far away…

    • Tony Mann · May 10, 2016 Reply

      The two places I remember were Show World and the Pussycat Theatre. Met a lot of the Great Ladies of Adult Cinema there when the did personal appearances such as ; Annette Haven, Leslie Bovee, Sharon Mitchell, Candida Royale,Serena, Veronica Hart and Seka.
      I had heard about the time that Jaime who was dating Amber Lynn held court down stairs in the lounge area of the Pussycat and had Amber get up close and Personal with some of the Fans! Those were the days!

  2. Tom Jenkins · May 8, 2016 Reply

    Amazing. I’ve seen so many ‘New York – Before and After’ features but this is streets ahead of the pack.

    Always the best!

  3. Dave Huffman · May 8, 2016 Reply

    Now all I need is a time machine.
    Excellent history, vividly brought to life.

  4. Steven Otero · May 8, 2016 Reply

    Next door to Gaiety Burlesk was Harlequin Rehearsal Studios. I used to give Fencing Lessons there .

  5. Mark Savage · May 8, 2016 Reply

    Certainly one of the saddest pieces The Rialto Report has ever done. And one the best, too.

    It’s heartbreaking to see that not one theatre from the era has survived. All have been obliterated by a vomitous corporate culture that has ripped the old character from the city and has no respect for history or architecture.

    These pics are like a comparison with planet Earth today and a parallel planet somewhere.

    I had the fortune of visiting a few of these in the early 80’s.

    • Peen · May 9, 2016 Reply

      Mark – Did midtown Manhattan really need ALL of those porno theaters? Like, one of EVERY BLOCK? I mean, I’m not a puritan but are we really longing for the days where we need more places to jack-off in public than we do McDonald’s restaurants? Do you really actually miss the days where you go into a movie theater and stick to a seat that has more DNA embedded in it than a maternity testing facility? What’s so heartbreaking about this? I don’t disagree with you about the corporate culture but in this case society has traded one “vomitous” visage for another. Only in one of those pictures did I see actual, legitimate movies playing (although one might argue that ‘Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead” doesn’t qualify as a legitimate movie). If we were talking about pictures of Movie Palaces that were playing “Star Wars”, “The Sting” “Rocky” or “The Godfather” and not “The Filth Show” and “Gate of Flesh” that would be different. You don’t miss the theaters, you miss your youth and the fact that you are getting old.

      • Blair · May 9, 2016 Reply

        Peen,

        I hear where you’re coming from, and I’m certainly not going to claim that the adult films were all un-recognized masterpieces, but what I am mourning is the culture and anything-goes anarchy that existed in this period. This made it a truly unique place, and I would trade it for today’s tourist trap in an instant… youth or no youth.

        • C.R. · May 10, 2016 Reply

          Stating the obvious, but I believe a number of us get a thrill out of the fact that people in the past had to go out in public to be exposed to adult entertainment. To venture outside the comfort zone and take it in communally, and that is a thrill that is lost with this era of anonymous online consumerism. Sitting in a theater designed for exhibition on a bustling boulevard has been replaced with peeping vapidly on your phone. Many of these places also offered live sex shows making it even more of a special experience.

      • Perian Dillon · May 14, 2016 Reply

        Funny, I had the same response when I went to Pattaya.
        How many friggin bar/brothels does one city need?
        Five thousand? Any rational person would call that “overkill.”

  6. HeySuchAndSuch · May 8, 2016 Reply

    Wow. An amazing piece of work, and an interesting commentary on the direction the city’s taken. Regardless of whether you’re a consumer of pornography or not, the depressing sameness of the glass and steel towers that have taken over the entire city (and are slowly sending Downtown Brooklyn into a shadow as well) are unquestionably uglier than the funky glitter and glare of old Times Square. I had to go thru there the other day, and it just made me angry – as it does with pretty much everyone I know. The idea that NYers would let the city take a 8-10 block, river-to-river hunk out of the middle of an already overcrowded island and give it over entirely to people who DON’T live here is insane to me. Then again, that’s probs why I’m broke, and the people who had the foresight to engineer the “cleaning up” are living it up in the Hamptons.

    History is already re-writing the opinion of Giuliani’s reign as Mayor. Hopefully we’ll eventually come to consider his re-development of Times Square in the same way we do the “re-development” of the old MSG.

    Anyway: keep up the good work!

  7. Jose Verschaffel · May 8, 2016 Reply

    I remember the premiere of “Viva Vanessa ” at the Pussycat, on Broadway, with Kiel lights and red carpet!
    Those were the days….

    • Mark · May 9, 2016 Reply

      coincidentally, that’s a film i have on dvd from vca pictures. i actually saw a few films that were advertised on the marquee that i have on dvd such as another day, another man by doris wishman and bob chinn’s tropic of desire double a double bill with sweet young foxes.

      also i spotted john lamb’s documentary sexual freedom in denmark which i’ve seen but never owned. i don’t even remember what it was like besides being some excuse to show smut in scandinavia under a pretext of showing us about the “culture” in denmark.

      would’ve been fantastic to see these with fellow raincoaters in their rightfully shameful triple x theaters but those days are long gone. btw: loved how some of these theaters had grope rooms.

  8. Anthony Nesbitt · May 8, 2016 Reply

    God, love to see ‘Baby Cakes’

  9. Brian O · May 8, 2016 Reply

    That’s quite the trip down memory lane.

  10. Cathy Brown · May 8, 2016 Reply

    Thank you for taking the time it took to do this comprehensive peek into the past. Boy, it puts a face on gentrification. If the folks who go to the Paris Cafe and “straight” theatres knew all of the fluids spilled in their midst. Nice trip down Mammary Lane…Tad’s Steaks too. Really nice piece!

  11. Steveo · May 8, 2016 Reply

    I’d give my right testicle to stroll around these areas in the 1970s. (But that would probably defeat the purpose, I guess).

  12. Janet T. · May 8, 2016 Reply

    Lost movie palaces, ghosts of 42nd Street – beautifully remembered here, and ignored by 99% of the tourists who populate the area today.

  13. William Margold · May 8, 2016 Reply

    They were “The Semenatoriums” of our “Golden Showered” past.

    The preceding sentiment was inspired by what The Rialto Report does better than anyone else when it comes to dealing and revealing The History of XXX.

    as always…take care and care take.

  14. Mark · May 8, 2016 Reply

    Walked it in 1982; I was spending one day in Manhattan as I was invited to a wedding in Long Island….MOMA, other cultural stops were ignored in favour of a trip through this area…what character it had. I’m glad I saw it before it vanished. Need I say how great a piece this is? You people never fail in your choice of subject matter and/or the way in which you present it; truly astonishing.

  15. Jim Stevens · May 8, 2016 Reply

    Just wow. To use a cliché…that takes me back.

    I saw my first adult movie in 1981 at the Orleans on 47th St…a second run of “Insatiable” for $1.99…and spent many an hour in the Pussycat, Circus, Capri, World, Eastworld, Victory and a few others getting a crash course in adult film. Then, as now, I was a student of film and looked at them as real movies, gravitating to the ones with solid storylines and people in them who could actually act. In fact, most of my small collection of adult DVD’s is of those movies I saw in those very theatres.

    There was a period between 1988 and 1996 when I didn’t get to NYC for various reasons and by the time I started going back, the theatres were long gone. And even now, I notice the remaining adult video stores on 8th Av disappearing one by one.

    Thanks, as always, for your amazing detective work. These theatres played a unique role in my movie education.

  16. J. Walter Puppybreath · May 8, 2016 Reply

    Just fantastic. Definitely a “100% On The Peter Meter”.

  17. RP · May 8, 2016 Reply

    Amazing piece. I went to NYC in the late 80’s but didn’t get chance to check out that area.

    Being from Boston, this reminds me of Boston’s mini version of 42nd St, the old “Combat Zone”. That’s gone as well. All of the adult theaters and bookstores were wiped out. Replaced by eateries, a huge RMV, CVS, and other random stores. As it was very close to Chinatown, the mayor was getting heat from people in the Chinese community to get rid of the theaters and bookstores. There are two strip clubs that are on a side street. I believe one is the old Glass Slipper, and a chain club, “Centerfolds”. Emerson College owns a lot the old theater space. The male “Art Cinema” is some sort of AV area run by Emerson, I believe. The only adult theater I ever visited, The Pussycat, on Washington street was a Dunkin Donuts or McDonald’s the last I checked. Not sure what is now.

  18. Shade Rupe · May 8, 2016 Reply

    I’ve had to see this happen all around me. May 1996, the day that Guiliani and his goons stuck big red CLOSED BY THE CITY stickers up on the remaining joints was just pure evil cruelty. All of a sudden we had nowhere to go. I just wish we had even a few more moments to take more pictures. I’ve seen extremely few photos inside these meeting places. There’s nothing to do here now but eat fast food and watch people walking around looking at their cell phones. A crime, and a tragedy.

    • Mondo Kane · May 13, 2016 Reply

      What Peen said up above, actually.

      I don’t think you can blame everything on Guiliani, in spite of how fashionable that is, nowadays…

      After 1985, home video was already killing off these places. The internet just added a kiss-of-death to the whole thing. No need to go into a dangerous theater and get mugged, robbed or beaten-up anymore.

      I agree with you about seeing nothing but people eating fast food and looking at their cell phones all day, though…

  19. Steph Johnson/Tanqueray · May 8, 2016 Reply

    Thanks for this trip down memory lane. Some of these places I had forgotten about. I enjoyed this Era because I made big money as a costume designer and also as a Go Go then Burlesque Dancer and a manager in one of the Burlesque Clubs.

  20. Jason · May 8, 2016 Reply

    cinema treasures provides a comprehensive recollection. any corrections or additions are welcome.

    http://cinematreasures.org/

  21. Bondurant · May 8, 2016 Reply

    Change is not always for the better. My first visit to NYC didn’t happen until 2007. Times Square was depressing. I actually thought there would be some grime and shady places of business. So wrong. I was definitely born in the wrong era.

  22. Travis B · May 8, 2016 Reply

    My favorite one is De Niro in that classic shot from Taxi Driver. Look at that area now, the 70’s really were that long ago…you talking to me?

  23. Captain Howdy · May 8, 2016 Reply

    My favorite adult movie theatre was not located in Times Square, but near 59th Street and Third Avenue. A wonderful little theatre called The EastWorld where I saw most of the Henry Paris classics, Inside Desiree Cousteau, Summer School, Nothing To Hide, and countless others.

    • NYCrex · May 9, 2016 Reply

      Hi Captain Howdy,

      I think you’re thinking of the Lido East. Eastworld was located on First Avenue between 59th and 60th.

      NYCrex

  24. ozzy · May 8, 2016 Reply

    Another fantastic article. I’ve visited Cinema Treasures site many times over the years looking at these photos of old Times Square. I’m so envious of those who got to experience it, must have been a great time. Now NYC is another Corporate cesspool of Chase banks and Verizon stores. Very sad. Thank you to the RR for all your hard work with these weekly articles for all of us who appreciate this Golden Age of adult cinema.

  25. Kenyon Adler · May 9, 2016 Reply

    For anyone interested, there’s this academic take on the area’s history and how it’s been remembered today:

    http://www.amazon.com/Grindhouse-Nostalgia-Memory-Exploitation-Fandom/dp/1474409008/ref=mt_paperback?_encoding=UTF8&me=

  26. Keith J. Crocker · May 9, 2016 Reply

    Memories, memories. Of interest in September of 1980 I had seen Summer School starring Laurien Dominique at the Lido East cinema, which was on the East side of Manhattan, and was actually quite clean and safe (you know us Long Island boys, we don’t take chances). Otherwise, I took in all the adult films at The Queens Village . And of course the Salisbury Theater in Westbury Long Island, which showed censored prints of hardcore films. I wrote on Salisbury theater in Exploitation Journal volume 3#2 and the Fine Arts Theater in Hempstead in volume 3 #1, both issues still available here: http://www.cinefear.com/journal.html . Also, here is some super 8mm footage of 42nd St circa September 1980 as shot by myself and a friend: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbRVzD71Cno . And it was video, cable and the internet that killed 42nd St.

  27. Charles Tatum · May 9, 2016 Reply

    Great stuff, as always! I was as fascinated by the newspaper ads as I was by the photos! Keep up the great work, you’re to be congratulated for this site and podcasts!

  28. NYCrex · May 9, 2016 Reply

    I remember one of the last theaters to show 16mm (actual film, not video) pornos was on Third Avenue between 13th & 14th Streets. It was around 1987-88. Anyone recall the name? It had been a legit Off-Broadway theater prior and I saw Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat there in the early 80’s. It would be interesting to know how it became a porno theater at such a late time in the era. It would have been listed in Screw’s directory during those years. Might be an interesting story Ashley & April!

    • JL · May 10, 2016 Reply

      Hi NYCrex,

      The theater was called The Variety. It did have a spell as a grindhouse, but went back to being a regular Off Broadway house in the early to mid 90’s. I lived right across the street at the time and saw a number of plays there. There is actually a movie based around that theater in its grindhouse days called “Variety” (1983) and directed by Bette Gordon. It’s about a chick who gets a gig taking tickets in the theater and how it changes her life. In that movie the theater is supposed to be in Times Square, but they used The Variety on Third Ave. It’s a great time-capsule into NYC in the early ’80’s. I think most viewers on this site would dig it. You can stream it or get it on dvd on Amazon.

      • NYCrex · May 11, 2016 Reply

        Variety!!! Thanks JL. I have seen that movie ages ago. But I’ll check it out again.

  29. NYCrex · May 9, 2016 Reply

    Of course the World Theater marquee was reproduced as the main stage set for Saturday Night Live in the 80’s.

  30. Jeremy Richey · May 10, 2016 Reply

    Absolutely stunning work! Among the most fascinating, haunting and sad reports so far. Really wonderful work and I’ve never seen before and after shots presented with such a captivating and well done layout.

  31. Johnny Woodside · May 10, 2016 Reply

    I never went to Times Square for the porn; grindhouse films were my guilty pleasure. But I still enjoyed the neon signs and come-hither ads and barkers and ‘window dressing’ these theatres often had.

    What’s sad is how, after all that change for the “better”,
    the area actually feels seedier…

  32. Chris · May 10, 2016 Reply

    Wow ash and April what in amazing job thank you thank you. Oh my God brings back so many memories of my youth in New York City. I walked among so many of these porn theaters And watched many a porn flick. Pussycat theater was Huge. Victory theater etc. etc. I still go to the theater frequently in time square and the theater district. I long for the days of the New York City grunge. The theater district is to antiseptic and corporate for my taste I miss the good all days I guess the life section does the porn theaters jamie Gillis. Thank you actually in April

  33. john amero · May 11, 2016 Reply

    i was happy to see three theatres i managed during this fun period….the doll, the circus and the world, where i got busted for running “high rise” but my night in the slammer was well worth it! great trip down mammary lane! and it’s all in my forthcoming book…”from porn to prime time..my 30 year search for a happy ending” all the best to you both.

  34. Steve Thomas · May 12, 2016 Reply

    For those interested in the interiors of some of these theaters, there are three gay porn flicks worth checking out:

    A Night at the Adonis was shot inside the Adonis Theater

    Times Square Strip was filmed inside the Gaiety

    The Back Row has a lot of scenes shot in the Eros Theater, and the opening credits feature a montage of Times Square theater marquees and peep show signage

  35. Midnight Owl · May 14, 2016 Reply

    Very interesting update. I never made it to New York during this period but along with a couple of high school friends visited similar establishments in San Francisco during this time. The movie “Dirty Harry” has a few scenes showing that part of San Francisco during that time.

    I’ve spent a few hours on this page looking up the movies and actresses that appear on the marquees. One thing that I find very curious is something that is in the photo for the Fantasy Twin Theatres. An actress named Ariel Lee is given top billing for a movie named “Scoundrels” (1982). This appears to be the only film she ever appeared in and, according to the Internet Adult Film Database, she had a non-sex role.

    Her name is listed above Copper Penny and instead of other actresses that appeared in the film, including Sharon Mitchell and Tiffany Clark. I’m just wondering how they determined what to include on the marquees. I would assume you would want people to see a name and decide to see that film as a result. I would guess the other actresses in the film would have drawn more interest from the public.

    Did Ariel Lee have some other claim to fame in New York at that time, or did theater owners not put as much thought on what went on the marquee as they could have?

    • Midnight Owl · May 14, 2016 Reply

      Oops, I meant to point out that there is a more current adult film actress named Pressley Carter who has gone by the name Ariel Lee, but Carter would not have even been born when this film was released.

      I wonder if the newer actress choose that name randomly or if there was some relationship to the 1982 Ariel Lee.

  36. julie · May 15, 2016 Reply

    What a trip down memory lane. I must have left gallons of joy juice in that area. A fond memory was watching That Lady from Rio in 1976 when I was 15. I was stroking to beat the band when who but Vanessa del Rio came over to me to see if I needed any help. She was wearing black nylons and looked straight at Mr Happy. She never looked at me. I was dying of embarrassment and said I was sorry.
    At the Show World I saw and met Samantha Fox and Bobby Astyr, Desiree Cousteau, Veronica Hart, Jamie Gillis and Bree Anthony. And in one other theatre the one and only Jennifer Welles who would allow you to lick her pussy once for a $ a lick. I can still taste her. I didn’t wash my face for 3 days

  37. John · May 15, 2016 Reply

    Wow Times Square sure was the Mack Daddy of Porn! Hey, anybody ever heard of the flick featured in one of the photos called “The Minor’s Wife?” I see no mention of it in a Google Search. Lost film?

  38. Hank Rose · June 7, 2016 Reply

    Theaters were showplace stars of the golden age. Easily one of the best photo essays ever on this site. The 70s with its pop culture variety and confluence of expressive freedom was a watershed time capsule of X entertainment. No other period in the future will ever equal it and if you have a time machine, this is the decade you want to return to.

  39. Jackson Mallick · July 12, 2016 Reply

    I can assure you that every top executive that work for all those big names such as Verizon,Disney,Time Warner ect. masterbated at these adult business in the 1980’s.They have some nerve as far as cleaning up Times square and turning it into such a generic place.

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