Gay Paree Cinema

90 Walton Street NW,
Atlanta, GA 30303

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rechols
rechols on February 16, 2012 at 11:28 pm

Somewhere along the line I remember reading that the Gay Paree was a Mike Thevis operation. Thanks for the updated location photo, Ken. Hinson McAuliffe did indeed periodically raid the XXX theaters in Atlanta, think there were about 7 or 8 of them. After a raid they would switch to showing softcore for a while – but they had good lawyers, and when the heat died down, they went back to hardcore. It took McAuliffe a while to fine tune his prosecutorial skills in that area, but by 1980 he did succeed in shutting down all the porno theaters in Fulton County. The Buckhead Cinema was the only “adult” theater that remained open – it survived by switching to a softcore format (most of the major adult film companies shot in two versions: hard and soft.) Open secret among the raincoat crowd was the Buckhead showed hardcore late at night on the weekends. With the glut of porn on the internet and tons of dvds now available, it’s hard to imagine that the pruriently inclined once had to go to public ‘adult’ theaters to scratch their itch.

hiker
hiker on February 15, 2012 at 9:06 pm

I remember this theater as well… on two accounts. (1)it was the first gay theater I had ever seen, and (2) it was just down the street from both the Atlanta Boy Scout office at 167 walton, which was virtually next door to the “Main” Atlanta YMCA, home of the skinny dip. I used to think it interesting that the gay theater was within a block of the two largest male-centric organizations in town! for those younger folks, up until probably the late ‘60’s swim trunks were forbidden at the “Y” swimming pool— everybody skinny dipped!

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on December 21, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Nice comment Ralph.

rechols
rechols on November 12, 2010 at 1:42 am

I used to pass the Gay Paree while riding the #23 bus to downtown for my classes at GSU.
I never went into the place, gay is not my orientation and I don’t speak French.
Now that you mentioned the Houston Street Art, Stan, I passed that place many a time too while
a student at GSU. I believe it had an “adult” bookstore attached, or it might have been just
next door. Someone told me that they showed movies there with people actually “doing it."
I didn’t believe that – had to check it out. Went into the place, little foyer. High up the wall straight
ahead was a little window – this was the projection booth. The projectionist granted admission. $3,
very pricey for 1971. I forked over the three bucks and the guy asked me, "Which one, one or two?"
What?? "Which movie you want to see?” The straight one. “They’re both straight.” So it was door number one for me. Went into the auditorium, seated maybe 20, folding chairs, the light from the
projection booth lit the place up pretty well. About a half dozen guys, all looking intently at the
screen. And yes, they were “doing it” onscreen. Still couldn’t believe it.
I was just back from Vietnam then. Shocked that Coke had gone up to 25 cents a can, bus fare
on the Atlanta Transit System was $1.25 and hardcore porn was being shown in Atlanta. The times they were a changin'.
It took Hinson McAuliffe about ten years to shut all the hardcore places down. And they stayed
shut for a long time.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on January 5, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Albany ,Georgia was the city. While we are talking about banning movies Augusta Police Chief,James Beck, stated he would raid the IMPERIAL THEATRE there if it showed A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. Being an ABC theatre and wanting no bad press it was pulled only to play later when it was released as a R rated movie,

Champlin
Champlin on January 8, 2009 at 12:53 pm

Following the US Supreme Court overturning the Georgia Supreme Court verdict in favour of Carnal Knowledge, the film was subsequently shown with Night Porter (another Avco Embassy release) as a double-feature during 1974. Does anyone remember seeing these together at this time (and in Georgia)?

JFBrantley
JFBrantley on May 19, 2008 at 1:38 pm

The Supreme Court case for Carnal Knowledge came from Albany, Georgia. I think it was in 1971 give or take a year.

decoteau
decoteau on March 4, 2008 at 2:47 pm

Terrific information Stan. Thanks for the post.

StanMalone
StanMalone on October 9, 2007 at 10:14 am

Scott: I am not aware of any other raids on the Gay Paree. The Glen Art Theatre had long engagements of both Deep Throat and The Devil In Miss Jones but was never raided. In that case, the fine print in the ad indicated that they were showing the “Optically Edited” versions. I was told that meant that the XXX parts of the scenes were covered by black dots and strips, a la the fight scene in Borat, or were smeared like you will find in some airline prints these days. It could be that is the type of fare the Gay Paree showed, or perhaps there was not enough publicity to be gained by a raid unless is was showing something high profile like Deep Throat.

Ed and Ken: Thanks for the kind words. I know very few people in the Atlanta area read this site, but your comments encouraged me to post comments on the Peachtree Art and the Fox. One paragraph of the Fox post might interest you:

Another event during this summer of 1973 was the first and perhaps only time the Fox hosted the Atlanta Film Festival. This was a short lived effort during the 70’s that is notable here only because there was quite a bit of attention paid to it since it had been announced that “The Last Tango In Paris” would open the festival. Not a big deal you would think except for one small detail. This is hard to believe now, but although the film had been in release around the country for weeks if not months, it had yet to play in Atlanta. This was because the Fulton County Solicitor General, Hinson McAuliffe, had made a name for himself, and attracted a lot of free publicity, by raiding theatres playing adult movies. He usually left the hardcore 16MM stuff alone but never hesitated to go after higher profile targets such as the Andy Warhol movie “Lonesome Cowboys”, “Oh Calcutta'‘, and later "Story of O’‘ and "Flesh Gordon”, and quite a number of managers and projectionists who were not exactly threats to the public were carted off to jail. McAuliffe had already vowed, in advance, to raid any theatre which dared expose the good people of Fulton County to such filth. A lot of us were waiting to see if the Fox Theatre, of all places, would get busted for daring to run Tango. As it worked out, the Fox declined to get involved and it was announced that Tango would open the festival at a different location. However, McAuliffe was hot on the trail, and the movie never played, or if it did, not to the public.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on September 17, 2007 at 3:38 pm

Hey Ken… You might have been a bit hungry when you added the AKA above. That should be “Walton Street Art Theatre” not “Walnut Street!”

Cheers!

scottfavareille
scottfavareille on September 17, 2007 at 8:41 am

I also recall somewhere in Georgia that they tried to prosecute the R-rated Carnal Knowledge for obscenity.

What I am curious of is any attempts made to raid the theater during the showing of gay porn, particularly since Georgia had a rather strong enforcement of laws against sodomy for many years (and homosexuals were the target of such laws).

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on September 17, 2007 at 5:56 am

Thanks StanMalone….It is postings like yours which makes this such a wonderful site and gives an insite into what would otherwise be unknown history.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on September 17, 2007 at 5:34 am

Thanks for that terrific post on the theatre’s history, StanMalone.

Here’s an image of the theater that I captured from the documentary “Inside Deep Throat.” Based on StanMalone’s comments, I think we can pretty reliably date the image from 1973.

I also think an AKA is in order for “Walton Street Art Theatre.”

StanMalone
StanMalone on September 16, 2007 at 2:47 pm

This location operated under many different names and formats during the 60’s and early 70’s. Prior to its Gay Paree days it was known as the Walton Street Art and was operated, I recall, by George Ellis. George left the location in 1971 to take over the Ansley Mall Mini Cinema which he renamed the Film Forum.

/theaters/16291/

With its slightly more suburban, shopping center location, the Film Forum became the best known and most successful of all art and indie film venues of its time.

The Walton, located downtown, became the Gay Paree. It must have been successful to some extent because for years it had the largest ad in the XXX section of the Atlanta paper.

Those of you who were alive in those days may recall the nature of the XXX movie theatre business in those pre video years. In Atlanta, there were several hard and soft-core locations located in the central downtown area which I walked through every day on my way to class at Georgia State. The soft-core locations, such as the 10th Street Art, Metro Art, and Buckhead Art, seemed to run 35MM and the booths were Union operated. The hardcore locations, such as the Ashby Street Art, were 16MM and non Union. This was before my days working in theatres, but I have been told that one of these, the Houston Street Art, was a twin where one side was soft-core 35MM and the other was hardcore 16MM. Also notice how all of these locations used the word “Art” in their name, a matter of no small discomfort to the Peachtree Art Theatre located at 13th Street, which was Atlanta’s one true “Art” theatre at that time. It was during this time that the Peachtree Art closed down and was reopened by the Weis chain as the Weis Cinema, showing standard first run product.

I did not intend for this to become a history of the XXX theatres of Atlanta, but only mention it to set the stage for the most well known incident involving the Gay Paree Theatre which occurred in the summer of 1973 when it made a short lived departure from its “gay” theme. The most notorious example of the XXX type of product was “Deep Throat”. By this time I had been working in theatres for a couple of years and had heard stories of private, borrowed, or bootleg versions of this film being shown privately in mainstream theatres around town after hours. However, it had never had a public engagement in Atlanta because it was almost sure to be raided. The Fulton County Solicitor of the day, Hinson McAuliffe, rarely bothered the low profile hardcore locations downtown, but never missed a chance for the free publicity to be garnered by a raid on a suburban location playing a movie like “Oh Calcutta”. (If you are interested, I have described an example of this in my post on the North Springs Theatre: /theaters/11778/)) Hard to believe now, but the United Artists release of “Last Tango In Paris” did not open in Atlanta for months after its national release date due to McAuliffe’s vow, in advance, to raid any theatre that dared play it.

This was the situation in Atlanta in July 1973 when the morning paper had a large ad for the “ALL NEW” Gay Paree announcing that it was proud to present “Deep Throat” with showings from 9:30 AM until 1:30 AM. It looked like the late hours would not be necessary since the theatre was raided at noon and the owner / manager, the projectionist, and the cashier were hauled off to jail. The owners were obviously ready for this as the owners wife brought out another print and was back onscreen by mid afternoon. For the next couple of days, the Gay Paree did the volume of business that the mainstream theatres in town only saw in their dreams, with lines around the block. The theatre was raided again and without a third print on hand, it was back to the regular fare for the Gay Paree.

At a court hearing later in the week, a large crowd of mostly county courthouse employees showed up for the hearing since it had been rumored that the movie would be screened for the judge. The sheriff tried to close the courtroom to the public, but since that was apparently illegal, the public was admitted and the judge cancelled the plans to show the film, if such plans ever existed. I never heard what happened to the case and since the main point, being the publicity, had been achieved, the whole issue disappeared from view. Until this theatre was posted, I was not aware that it was still in operation in 1977. The next time I am downtown I will look to see if the building is still there, but I doubt it.