Cameo Theatre

66 Pennsylvania Avenue,
Niantic, CT 06357

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Cameo Theatre, East Lyme CT

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Cameo Theatre opened in early October 1972 with a Marx Brothers double feature “Horse Feathers” and “Duck Soup”. Opening special was $1.25 adult admission, every Monday and Tuesday.

By early-1973, it was showing R-rated movies as part of United General Theater chain, which also opened and ran the Waterford Cinema at around the same time, in the Waterford Shopping Plaza next to the Waterford Drive-In (that DI opened in August 1973).

The layouts and facades for both the Waterford Theatre and the Cameo Theatre were identical. Both were designed as pillbox strip-mall single-screen houses, each located at the far end of a row of businesses.

In mid-April 1973, the Cameo Theatre was showing “Carnal Knowledge” at night, and an 85 cent kids matinee on Saturday and Sunday with “Tom Thumb”.

In late-July 1973, the Cameo Theatre closed for renovations, wrapping up with a weekend matinee of “House of Wax” in 3D with Vincent Price. When it reopened over the first week of July 1974, under new owners (who also ran legit and X-rated theaters in Rhode Island and MA, some of them reputed to be Mafia-operated).

The Cameo Theatre showed one more R-rated double feature (Woody Allen’s “Sleeper” and “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex”). Then, on July 13, 1974, it debuted its first X-rated film, although it was a “soft” X, with “Last Tango in Paris”.

On July 19, 1974, the Cameo Theatre went full hardcore for the first time with a feature called “Forced Entry”. Shows were daily at 1:30, 7:30, and 9:00. The debut X-rated advertisement in the New London Day was huge, reading ‘Look! The Finest in Adult Entertainment! Just 10 minutes from New London, take 95 south to exit 74’.

At that time (summer 1974), other local X-rated theaters in Connecticut included the Palace Twin Theatre in Norwich (which sometimes showed regular films on one screen and X on the other), the Saybrook Cinema, the State Theatre in Jewett City (which had the area exclusive on “Deep Throat”, ie it was reputed to be a “mob-run” theater), the Capitol Theatre in New London (which showed X at night, kiddie matinees on weekends, and hosted rock concerts!), the Franklin Square Cinema, and the Groton Drive-In. The Groton DI (which survived far longer than Groton’s Bridge Drive-In, which closed in late-1973) would soon go X full-time. Soft X screened at the UA Groton Drive-In and Norwich/New London Drive-In that summer, and would soon play the Waterford Drive-In too.

The Cameo Theatre changed owners around 1983 and continued to screen porn until closing for good in 1985.

As of April 2012, a Post Office branch occupies the space where the Cameo Theatre formerly operated.

Contributed by Jay Allen Sanford

Recent comments (view all 5 comments)

rokcomx
rokcomx on June 3, 2012 at 4:09 am

I interviewed a woman who co-managed the Cameo and then purchased it with her husband during its final two years, and she confirms the somewhat shady organization who previously owned the locale and who provided its adult movie prints. “We never saw anyone ever. Film was delivered and every night we called a phone number to give the voice on the other end the totals for the day.”

“The Cameo looked exactly like Waterford Cinema, down to the red carpet and the mirror tiles on the lobby wall. We had a small candy counter with a small popcorn machine, a few candy bars and a small fridge for cans of pop.”

“There was a rectangular marquee on the roof above the theater and poster displays outside. Bo would put up the movies titles and the little town pranksters would re-arrange the letters into cuss words on it all the time. At some point, he stopped, and I think he just had the show times on it: Monday through Saturday 7:00 & 9:00, Saturday matinee at 4:00, and closed Sunday…we hung the movie posters on the walls in the lobby.”

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 3, 2012 at 10:58 am

There are location issues with this theater. The introduction says there is now a post office where the Cameo Theatre used to be, but the U. S. Postal Service gives the address of the East Lyme branch post office as 225 Boston Post Road, not Pennsylvania Avenue. The building at that location doesn’t resemble the one in the photo at the top of this page.

Meanwhile, CinemaTour lists a Cameo Theatre at 66 Pennsylvania Avenue in Niantic, Connecticut, which is just down the road from East Lyme, but lists no theaters for East Lyme itself.

The Postal Service lists the Niantic branch post office as being at 58 Pennsylvania Avenue, Suite 2. That building does resemble the one in the photo above, so I’m guessing that’s the place and I’m updating Street View to it. I suppose the addresses shifted a bit after the theater closed. The location of the theater should be changed from East Lyme to Niantic, though. The Zip Code is already correct.

rokcomx
rokcomx on June 3, 2012 at 9:54 pm

Sorry, Niantic (a village) and East Lyme (town in which Niantic sits) are all the same place to us residents! Cameo address should be 66 Pennsylvania Avenue, Niantic. The PO that now occupies 58 Pennsylvania is at the far end of a strip mall building whose address/suite numbers have all been shuffled a bit since various businesses have come and gone, knocking out walls and changing the resident configurations. The addresses of the strip mall occupants used to span from number 56 to number 82.

The spot that used to be number 66 (the Cameo) now appears to be number 58, the PO (the large space that used to house a supermarket now holds several other smaller stores). The PO is a bit longer than the Cameo was, occupying the former Cameo locale PLUS an adjacent space that formerly held other businesses.

bicyclereporter
bicyclereporter on June 18, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Correct on Niantic. http://www.cinematour.com/theatres/us/CT/4.html

rokcomx
rokcomx on October 25, 2014 at 3:39 am

Final screening at this theater was October 10, 1985, a double bill with Deep Throat and Taboo – http://whenporntheatersinvadedconnecticut.blogspot.com/

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