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Shortly before its demise, the theater had been on the market for sale. There is a good story in Dave Friedman’s book “A Youth in Babylon” where he talks about one of the exploitation distributors/producers using this theater to show a film. SS Millard (called one of the “forty thieves”, along with Kroger Babb and Dan Sonney) went into a real estate office (on a Friday) wanting to take a look at the theater. The agent there gave him the keys. Millard went out to the theater and found there was electricity hooked up and wound up running a 2 day program of one of his films. (Complete with posters, lobby cards, etc!) On Monday morning, he dropped off the keys in the mailslot before the office opened. Millard, of course, did not pay for use of the theater or the utilities, and of course pocketed all the proceeds.
Some of the entrance area can be seen in the 1964 film “The Erotic Mr Rose” (along with the Centre next door).
One more comment, the marquee was V-shaped, not a flat marquee. I am guessing the marquee was changed between 1964 & 1968 (when the Centre played Love Camp 7).
The marquee and the entrance area to the theater (and also the entrance area to the Guild next door) are seen in the 1964 film “The Erotic Mr Rose”. The marquee shows the theater playing “Nude Las Vegas” & “The Christine Keeler Story”, the coming attactions has “Nudes on Credit” (ironically directed by the same director). The ticket booth is seen & a “No one under 18 years admitted” sign is under the booth.
In that same film, the main character has anewspaper ad from the SF Chronicle, the Centre is advertised as showing “BO-O-I-N-G” (a nudie-cutie fron that era).
The Peppertree Plaza theater in the north end of Santa Maria would occasionally show X-rated product in the 1970’s as well.
X-rated fare in this part of California has had significant opposition from law enforcement &/or religious groups in the past. In the early 1980’s, Pussycat bought a building (whose previous use was as a meeting hall) right outside the city limits of San Luis Obispo. After a month of showing foreign language films, they turned it to a porn house. Within a week, it got raided by the sheriff. It reopened again shortly thereafter trying to show porn only to be raided again & shut for good by the sheriff. The second time it was open about 3 days.
Around 1982, the Central Coast Theater in Pismo Beach tried showing XXX films at midnight shows. A local pastor organized a group and picketed the theater for about 2 months, and the theater decided not to show those films anymore. That same pastor then targeted stores that sold “pornographic” magazines and got many stores in the area to not sell Playboy, Penthouse, etc.
Today, there is one strip club in Santa Maria called Spearmint Rhinos.
There is a lawsuit now between the building owner & Clear Channel (tenant, who uses the theater under the Bill Graham Presents moniker). Clear Channel sold the naming rights (without the landlord’s permission) to SF Weekly & it is now advertised as the SF Weekly Warfield.
It started showing live sex shows as it was losing audience share to the Mitchell Brothers (who themselves later went the “live sex” route) and to a lesser extent DeRenzy (Screening Room, Kearney Cinema, and North Beach Movie, all showing harder edged fare) and Pussycat. It was known that Pickett & Elsters film tastes tended more towards XXX fare that seemed tamer than the competition.
Marquee still up, building is boarded up. Side of building advertises Market St Cinema & LA Gals. Building is also red colored now (it was that color in its last few years of business).
No marquee there now. It is a retail store.
Marquee still up (even advertises “Bargain Matinee to 2 PM”), but else it’s boarded up.
Apparently, this theater is on the market now & may not be open much longer. I read this on the DVDManiacs forum.
This was never operated by Pussycat. Pussycat operated the Guild on Market Street (about a block away) during the time this played XXX films). The Guild became a Pussycat in 1972, and changed its name to Pussycat Guild before just calling itself Pussycat in 1973. The Art 1 & 2 I first started seeing ads for was around 1972.
There is a hearing at the El Cerrito City Council tonight with an update about the project (Contractor bids and will the city continue to help with the restoration.)
Just got back from vacation—It has been demolished.
According to today’s San Francisco Chronicle, in an article about the closing of the Park Theater in Lafayette (also operated by Renaissance Rialto), it mentions that Rialto may give up on the Orinda when its lease is up a year from now. Not good news. (The Park Theater listing on Cinema Treasures has a link to the article.)
According to that article, it was bought by a “real estate investor”—Doesn’t sound good to me.
In that same article, it mentions that Renaissance Rialto may give up on the Orinda theater when its lease is up in a year. This is even more disturbing news.
The owner, Gordon McClendon, owned a number of drive-ins in Texas. He also made several low budget horror films in the late 1950’s, most notably The Giant Gila Monster and The Killer Shrews. McClendon now is a Burger King franchisee.
The Orinda Theater may be in danger according to today’s San Francisco Chronicle. Renaissance Rialto’s lease on it is up in a year and they are looking to get out when it is up. That would be an even bigger loss since it is an art deco masterpiece.
From what I understand, it showed a lot of sci-fi triple bills in the 1960’s prior to its porn house incarnation.
Michael Copner (publisher of Cult Movies magazine) once was a projectionist here during the 1970’s.
In the 1970’s, Harold Greenland operated this as one of his 3 XXX theaters in the Seattle area (along with the Garden and the Green Parrot). The Neptune had both XXX films and “live sex shows”.
At the end, the Regency operated as a short-lived revival house under independent operation. Lasted less than a year.
2 items not mentioned here:
Prior to Gary Meyer taking over in 1976, when it became a revival house, Mann Theaters operated this as a first-run house (and the Fox theater chain prior to that)
According to the 8/25/05 San Francisco Chronicle, it looks like Kimball’s East (a well known jazz club formerly in Emeryville) will be taking over, and turning it into a 650 seat facility with a restaurant, a bar, and a sidewalk cafe. This will be their new location.
The LA Times stopped taking ads for “X-rated” movies in August 1977. The NY Times started that policy a few months beforehand. Shortly after the LA did this, a number of other newspapers in the US either refused to advertise X-rated films or would just advertise the film titles only(for example: The San Jose Mercury and the Sacramento Bee).
Pussycat Theaters spent over $1 million a year advertising its theaters and what was playing there just in the LA Times alone. (They also took up roughly 50% of the space for “adult theaters”) Without the LA Times, their business dropped by 10%. (The other LA paper at the time, The Herald-Examiner, still advertised adult theaters, but their circulation was about 1/5 of what the Times circulation was.)
Also, the same operator of this theater operated the Cove Theater(also XXX)
Update: This theater is slated to be torn down in September(after the Hayward Zucchini Festival, which is held at Kennedy Park across the street) and it will be replaced with a Target store.
The Mitchells did change the signage shortly after acquiring the theater.