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Here are two photos I came across on Facebook showing a scale model version of the Pomona Fox — View link
The State closed for awhile in December 1979, when the Mann chain declined to renew the lease due to low attendance. Building owners Marie Ogden and Peggy Lou Foster, daughters of the theater’s builder, sold it in June 1980 to a group of Italian investors, Alcer Incorporated, for $425,000.00
The State began showing Asian flicks around the same time as the Broadway Theater on 8th and Broadway downtown, in October 1980. The same Asian owner who took over the State Theater in late 1980, Thoat Tang Minh, also screened Asian fare at the Broadway.
The Mann chain took 976 theater seats with them when they pulled out of the State. It reopened as the Trieu Thanh Theater on October 4, 1980, under Minh (age 20!) and his partner Nguyen Huu Due, with around 1,000 patrons attending opening night, according to an article in the San Diego Reader dated 10-23-80. The duo also ran Asian cinemas in Anaheim, Santa Ana, Oakland, San Jose,and Sacramento.
Today, some of the State’s ornate sidewalk inlay remains, though it’s getting quite broken up. The lovely circular stand-alone ticket booth is long gone –
The Broadway Theater on 8th and Broadway downtown began showing Asian flicks around the same time as the State Theater on El Cajon Boulevard, in October 1980. From 1976 thru 1980, the Broadway had been showing Spanish films (and American movies dubbed or subtitled in Spanish), but the Broadway theater owner Jacqueline Littlefied – who also owned the Spreckels Theaters further down Broadway – terminated the Spanish operators' lease (alleging poor building upkeep) and gave operation of the Broadway to the same Asian owner who took over the State Theater, Thoat Tang Minh.
In the late seventies, one screen went to softcore sexploitation films, which caused some dismay when the other screen would be showing all-age fare, as anyone could look out the back of the car window to see the other screen. It’s amazing this land hasn’t been developed yet, given the proximity to the two new big casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.
I worked here briefly in 1983, when it was showing X-rated films. Though operators planted a lot of trees and hedges around the lot, there were still kids climbing the trees each night to watch the movies, and it was a constant effort chasing them down and off the property. The FM radio sound also caused a ruckus, as anyone pulling into the nearby Railroad Salvage with their radio stations tuned on WDRC would have their sound hijacked by the grunts and groans of the porn movie onscreen.
The Bridge entrance was across from a residential street called Indian Field Road, which ran along the back of an elementary school. When the Bridge started showing sexploitation movies in the seventies (Russ Meyer, etc), neighbors complained about young kids sneaking in – the DI closed shortly after that. The other drive-in in Groton, the Groton DI, went to hardcore X films in the late 70s, but its remote locale – across from a Railroad Salvage – seemed to render it fairly immune to civic outrage.
The Meridian DI had a medieval themed playground built alongside the lot, which was open in the daytime and had its own separate entrance facing the street (the playground entrance had castle columns on either side, one of which was hollow and contained a sort of sentry booth headquarters).
The owners from 1974 to 1982 were Bob and Susan Carson. Walnut Properties, who ran California’s Pussycat Theatre chain, coveted the locale, but was unable to close a purchase deal on the property until 1982.
As with many Pussycats in the chainâ€™s fading days, Walnut ceased day to day operation in the late-80s. New management leased the theater from Walnut, keeping the Pussycat signage and operating the locale as a Pussycat (also like at many other latterday â€˜Cathouses). In this case, a former Walnut employee leased the property and ran it, Walnutâ€™s former district manager of northern California, Mrs. Paula Miranda (no relation to Walnut co-founder Vince Miranda),
The city of Stockton seemed fairly resigned to the long-lived porn oasis just off the so-called Miracle Mile, until civic leaders began applying pressure to close the locale in the early ‘90s. The theater locked its doors in January 1993.
Located on lower 4th, this was one of the first half dozen Pussycat Theatres opened by Dave Friedman and Dan Sonney. This locale was specifically built as a Pussycat, originally intended to be a 16mm incandescent house and still outfitted with some of that equipment when Vince Miranda and George Tate at Walnut Properties purchased the Pussycat chain in 1968 and began operating this and many other San Diego theaters, most of them general-release cinemas or late night grindhouses.
Open from noon to 5:30 a.m, this Pussycat’s exterior decor was mildly seedy, if era-apropos: faded and cracked faux-bricks, twin poster marquees ringed with flashers and lined in crimson velveteen, lit by flashing red and purple lights, with its ticket booth taking up the outside corner of the entranceway, stationed right there on the precipice of colorful, crazy lower 4th.
One of the early managers (early to mid-70s) was future F Street Bookstore founder Gojko “Greg” Vasic.
Hoping to sweep downtown free of porn blight, the city targeted the adult merchants with eminent domain proceedings intended to condemn the properties, so they could be refitted to suit the resurgent Gaslamp Quarter, whose acreage would be added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. The city’s Redevelopment Agency named around 75 businesses and individuals in an eminent domain lawsuit filed December 31, 1979.
The 4th Avenue Pussycat was one of them. The city confiscated the keys in 1981, though Walnut kept operating other downtown theaters as â€œtemporaryâ€ Pussycats, until virtually all the companyâ€™s San Diego theaters were forced to permanently shut down.
This was the eighth â€˜Cathouse in the Pussycat Theatre chain founded by filmmakers Dave Friedman and Dan Sonney in 1966. By 1968, the duo had sold the theaters to Vince Miranda and George Tate at Walnut properties, who operated this locale as a Pussycat until the mid-‘80s.
After that, former Aztec Theater (San Diego 5th Avenue) owner Wesley “Andy” Andrews leased the 500-seat property from Walnut and kept it open under the Pussycat name until the late â€˜90s, after all but the last few California ‘Cats had closed.
National City purchased the property (which included an adjacent furniture store also owned by Walnut) for $1,066,000. The theater by itself was valued at around $336,000, according to county tax records.
â€œI guess you can call it progress,â€ Wesley Andrews told the San Diego Union Tribune (8-4-98). â€œI don’t know that there’s anyway to fight it."
Mayor George Waters padlocked the National City Pussycat for good in July 1999. According to the Star News (7-17-99), Vice Mayor Ron Morrison found an old 1971 reel in the projection room, from a Walt Disney film rather than a porno. “It was probably used in case of a raid,” he reportedly quipped.
The National City Pussycat sat abandoned and ignored for awhile. The building was later bulldozed to make way for an intended student-resource center dubbed the University Education Village.
As of 1970, the El Cajon was owned by Vince Miranda at Walnut Properties, who began buying into the Dave Friedman/Dan Sonney-founded Pussycat Theater chain in the late ‘60s. El Cajon began screening softcore porn in late 1971 and then hardcore beginning in late 1972. This generated an endless array of local controversy, especially once the city began revitalization efforts in the neighborhood around where the old art deco-style theater sat.
Eventually, weekly protests were held in front of the pink-and-mauve theater by the Santee Bible Missionary Fellowship, and the city council made no secret of its wish to close the theater down and/or force it to return to screening family films.
It took until December 1989 before the theater finally shed its X skin. The first all-age screening at the renamed El Cajon Family Theater was All Dogs Go to Heaven, with all seats priced at $1.99. One of the theaterâ€™s new features was a “cry room,” where parents with noisy babies could watch the movie without disturbing other patrons. The renovated snack bar offered gourmet cookies, bottled mineral water, and nachos, alongside traditional movie treats like popcorn and candy.
In June 1991, operators announced the El Cajon would soon be shuttered for good. Walnut rep Barry Hartsfield said the price the city had been negotiating for the past year was acceptable.
“We are ready to sell,” he told the San Diego Union-Tribune (6-13-91). The locale was razed the following year.
A list of around 50 Pussycat Theaters was published today on the San Diego Reader site – View link
The West End Pussycat and its Boston sister Stuart theater were run by reputed mob boss Mickey Zaffarano of the NYC/Times Square Pussycat. Reciting from the U.S. Department of Justice Report â€œOrganized Crime Involvement in Pornographyâ€ (June 8, 1977), â€œMajor pornography figure Michael Zaffarano is said to have connections with the pornography business in Boston. His brother-in-law, Anthony Carl Mascolo, received financial backing from Zaffarano in January 1976 in order to open two pornographic theaters in Boston. They are known as the Pussycat Cinema 1 and the Pussycat West End Cinema.â€
â€œDuring a raid at the West End Cinema in January 1977, detectives found secret records in a hidden compartment reflecting that part of the gross receipts were being skimmed. As a result of the raids, Mascolo had been arrested twice and charged with violations of state obscenity statutesâ€¦Joseph Paladino allegedly receives a part of the gross of both Pussycat Cinemas.â€
Reputed Mafia kingpin (according to the Meese Commission report) Mickey Zaffarano of the NYC/Times Square Pussycat had his hand in this Boston â€˜Cat, as well as its sister theater the West End.
Reciting from the U.S. Department of Justice Report â€œOrganized Crime Involvement in Pornographyâ€ (June 8, 1977), â€œMajor pornography figure Michael Zaffarano is said to have connections with the pornography business in Boston. His brother-in-law, Anthony Carl Mascolo, received financial backing from Zaffarano in January 1976 in order to open two pornographic theaters in Boston. They are known as the Pussycat Cinema 1 and the Pussycat West End Cinema.â€
An article chronicling the history of the Pussycat chain was published today at View link
Thanks for adding this theater! Photos and interviews with former National Theater employees in this week’s new San Diego Reader – View link
There’s a photo of the El Cajon Theater’s Pussycat incarnation in this week’s new San Diego Reader, with an updated and expanded version of the ongoing Pussycat Theater project – View link
I worked at the San Diego ‘Cat in the late 70s and early 80s – I just posted MUCH more info and photos at View link
Most of the SD ‘Cat photos are screen shots from the George C. Scott film Hardcore, shot downtown in 1979.
As chronicled in this week’s new San Diego Reader, with an updated and expanded version of the ongoing Pussycat Theater project – View link
And here’s a drawing of this theater during its X-dayz, from a comic book called “Triple-X Cinema: A Cartoon History” – View link
This article “When Cathouses Ruled California” has much history on this theater, and the entire CA Pussycat chain, told via interviews with theater operators and employees. Lots of photos too, including many credited to cinematreasures contribs – View link
The Roxy in PB may have had 750 seats when it was mainly a movie theater, but it was cut back to 629 seats in its later concert configuration. Here’s an excerpt from an upcoming San Diego Reader article about long-gone local concert venues.
In November 1980, PBâ€™s Roxy Theater at 4642 Cass Street was pereparing to close its own doors to both concerts and movie screenings. Roxy owner Scott Shore had bought the venue in 1977, originally planning to operate it as a movie theater, until local distributors refused or were unable to provide first-run films.
The venue was converted to a 629-seater for concerts, which were booked by local promoter Marc Berman from summer 1978 until August 1979. This period saw acts playing the theater such as Lou Reed, Blondie, Iggy Pop, Dire Straits, and a 5/16/79 Police concert that was broadcast on KGB 101.5, becoming one of the bandâ€™s most well-regarded bootlegs.
After Berman departed for bigger ventures, the Roxy was leased to Concert Nite Productions through early 1980, whereupon owner Shore terminated the lease amidst allegations of unpaid rent and incomplete building improvements.
Local concert promoters Fahn and Silva Presents booked the Roxy occasionally from March through August â€™80, and then the theater spent months screening the adults-only film Caligula. In November 1980, Shore reportedly sold the site for around one million dollars. The building was demolished to make way for a new post office, which opened in 1984.
I’ve been trying to find a photo of this theater – the best I could do was to freeze a fleeting frame in the 1979 film Hardcore, with George C. Scott stumbling around downtown San Diego in search of his porn “star” daughter. You can find the pic here:
The Fox was hosting rock concerts in the late ‘70s. Also, found this interesting nugget on IMDB, RE Todd Browning’s career-destroying 1932 film Freaks:
Although production chief Irving Thalberg decided to re-cut the picture immediately after the disastrous test screening, he could not cancel the world premiere on January 28, 1932 at the 3,000-seat Fox Theatre in San Diego. This is the only venue at which the uncut version of “Freaks” is known to have played. Ironically, the unexpurgated “Freaks” was a major box-office success. Crowds lined up around the block to see the picture, which broke the theatre’s house record. By the end of the run, word had spread that “Freaks” was about to be butchered, and the theatre advertised, “Your last opportunity to see ‘Freaks’ in its uncensored form!”
New book-length Pussycat Theatre history from the San Diego Reader: