Thursday, July 6, 2017

Los Angeles Once Teemed with Dozens of Adult Cinemas

Now there's only two porn theaters in town.

At the Los Angeles Times, "The last (porn) picture shows: Once dotted with dozens of adult cinemas, L.A. now has only two":
In 1979, there were an estimated 800 porn theaters across the United States. But video and streaming have rendered them obsolete. The website Cinema Treasures lists fewer than 35 places now operating as adult theaters in the U.S.

In the 1970s, Los Angeles teemed with dozens of porn theaters. Now only two remain: the Studs and the Tiki. They sit at opposite ends of Santa Monica Boulevard — the former in West Hollywood, the latter in East Hollywood, framing the city in an unseen porno-magnetic field. Both beckon with promises of titillation and, in the case of the Studs, a tag line that reads, “Come explore, relax, and take a load off.”

To investigate these last bastions of adult cinema, I enlisted the help of Los Angeles painter Zak Smith.

Smith is a Yale-educated artist who has appeared in more than half a dozen porn films under the name Zak Sabbath. He chronicled his experiences in the 2009 memoir “We Did Porn.” (Original drawings from that project are currently on view at Fabien Castanier Gallery in Culver City.)

He was curious to explore the L.A. theaters, neither of which he had visited.

“They’re vestigial,” he says. “Like with everything else, the old platforms for porn are being phased out. Software adapts fast, hardware adapts slower — and a theater is the ultimate hardware.”

Plus, Smith sees them as symbols of the ways in which sprawling Los Angeles can unwittingly harbor forgotten pockets of history.

“L.A.,” he explains, “is one of those places that always manages to have at least one of something that shouldn’t exist.”