Playpen Theatre

693 Eighth Avenue,
New York, NY 10036

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Showing 1 - 25 of 139 comments

biff33
biff33 on November 17, 2012 at 5:30 am

Another picture of the interior, when new, is here:

https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=pCznAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&authuser=0&hl=en&pg=GBS.PA5

Matthew Prigge
Matthew Prigge on May 19, 2012 at 4:02 pm

I am working on a project to document the history of adult theatres in the US. If anyone has any person memories of the Playpen/ Adonis they would be willing to share, please contact me at mjprigge at uwm dot edu

jedidiah
jedidiah on December 14, 2011 at 1:20 am

Before it was the Playpen it was the Adonis (a different Adonis from the more famous one of the same name farther up 8th Avenue) and before it was the Adonis it was, of course, the Cameo, and I’m surprised that this theater doesn’t have a separate listing under that name because it was the “Cameo” for decades. Bill Landis (or, I should say, the late Bill Landis because he recently passed away) and his wife Michelle Clifford in their essential book on Deuce movie theaters, “Sleazoid Express,” devote a whole chapter to the Cameo and its owner, the infamous Chelly Wilson, the doyenne of Times Square smut palaces. Ms. Wilson deserves some sort of immortalization on the Deuce Walk of Infamy and if you can find Landis' excellent article on her that used to be posted on the Alpha Blue site, it is essential (and truly jawdropping) reading.

If I recall the book correctly, the Cameo is where the notorious roughie “Olga” movies played, but, more importantly, the Cameo played an important part in the history of Times Square pornography when in May of 1970 the film, “Sexual Freedom in Denmark,” premiered there. It was the first X-rated film to truly show “penetration” shots as compared to tamer less graphic adult flicks like “I am Curious (Yellow).” “Sexual Freedom in Denmark” was part of the wave of instructional adult films that were supposed to be documentaries or “how to” flicks, which is how they got away with the “redeeming social value” obscenity issue. Nowadays, they are known as “white coaters” because they usually had scenes of a sham doctor lecturing about the importance of sexual openness interspersed with the action shots. “Screw” magazine gave it the highest rating it ever bestowed on an X-rated film up to that point, and because of its explicitness it opened the floodgates of truly hardcore pornography that eventually overwhelmed Times Square.

“Sexual Freedom” played the Cameo for months. I saw the next film there in the fall of 1970 when I was a college freshman, “The Postgraduate Course in Sexual Love.” It was the first “adults only” film I ever saw. There was also a trailer for the next feature, “The Kama Sutra,” that, if my memory serves me correctly, featured an unknown (at that time) actor named John Holmes. I remember the theatre well: at that time it was still a comfortable, well-appointed, well-heated little theatre with a respectful, quiet audience. Years later (actually a decade later) I went back to the Cameo out of a combination of curiosity and nostalgia and it was a pure hellhole and indicative of how porn just totally trashed those Times Square theatres. The Cameo had been stripped of all of its prior interior comforts (carpeting, an ornamental urn in a niche as you entered the theatre), reeked of urine, and had tranny hookers patrolling the aisles for quickie tricks. It undoubtedly continued its inexorable decline down the sewer as it finally morphed into the Playpen and total decrepitude. But back then in the long ago time of 1970 it was still a lovely little theatre unkowingly about to succumb to venereal rot.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on October 4, 2011 at 1:24 pm

MNmm, you forgot to activate your link.

MNmn
MNmn on October 4, 2011 at 11:49 am

This is a new link to the photo of Cameo Theater, located on West 42nd Street: /theaters/6499/, as pointed out by “Tinseltoes” on December 10, 2010 at 1:54 pm
https://picasaweb.google.com/michaeln2007/MonoszonLI?authkey=Gv1sRgCK6ij4CBjtyA5QE#5655625053327811218

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on December 10, 2010 at 1:54 pm

The photo linked above on 12/24/09 actually shows this Cameo Theatre on West 42nd Street: /theaters/6499/

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on November 27, 2010 at 7:39 am

On this day in 1943, the Squire Theatre had a grand re-opening after being “completely renovated,” according to an ad in The New York Times. The first program was “an unprecedented combination” of two Paramount reissues, the Technicolor “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine” and the B&W “Island of Lost Souls.” Doors opened at 9:45am, with the last complete show ending around 2:00am.

woody
woody on October 13, 2010 at 2:14 am

photo from 2005ish which ive played around with using shift tilt thing on photoshop, a whole new look at the Playpen
http://www.flickr.com/photos/woody1969/5076785224/

Bway
Bway on December 25, 2009 at 8:29 am

Wow, that is a great photo, from the theater in “happier” days.

MNmn
MNmn on December 24, 2009 at 8:28 pm

Photo from private archive shows RKO CAMEO THEATRE in May of 1930 –
View link
Reference – Sergei M Eisenstein. Biography by Marie Seton, NY 1960, page 160

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 19, 2009 at 11:34 pm

The Ideal Theatre was built for Consolidated Amusements Enterprises, one of the largest of the early movie theater circuits in the east. The trade journal The Music Trade Review of November 6, 1915, published an encomium penned by Consolidated’s head, Lawrence Bolognino, in praise of the instruments of the American Photo Player Co., which had been installed in a number of the circuit’s houses.

The Ideal was then under construction, and a $5,000 Fotoplayer had been ordered for it. Other theaters being operated by Consolidated (each with a Fotoplayer among its accouterments) included the Drury Lane Theatre, the Regent Theatre, the Seventy-Second Street Playhouse, and the Morningside Theatre.

woody
woody on May 7, 2009 at 6:08 am

here is a new high res scan of a previous photo i posted, taken in 1992 when the theatre was the Adonis
View link

Bway
Bway on April 16, 2009 at 9:41 am

I always felt “sorry” for this theater when I would walk by and see it’s marquee with porn on it. The actual building had a lot of character on the outside, and it seemed a shame it was used for porn. Although now even worse, it’s a pile of rubble.

NativeForestHiller
NativeForestHiller on March 1, 2009 at 2:45 am

Does anyone have any historic or semi-historic photos of this theater as the Ideal Theatre, Squire, Esquire, Cinecitta, Cameo, or Adonis? Any interior photos? Please e-mail me at and please point me in the right direction. I contacted the Avery Library, but no blueprints were on file. I will also contact some other sources, but would appreciate any advice. Thanks!

Bway
Bway on March 11, 2008 at 5:18 pm

Heh, it seems so strange with the neon lights out. I must have walked passed it more times than I can count over the years. I haven’t been by since it’s been knocked down. that will be even stranger…

NativeForestHiller
NativeForestHiller on January 3, 2008 at 10:42 pm

Here is a RIP list that was compiled by New York Magazine & a member of a popular blog. It features the Playpen/Ideal Theatre:

View link

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on January 3, 2008 at 10:36 pm

There’s a big hole in the ground now.

William
William on December 4, 2007 at 9:55 am

They are around the second floor now.

William
William on November 30, 2007 at 8:14 am

Well they have started to raze the theatre. They have lowered the facade front top by about 10 feet as of today. So most of the roof must be gone now.

woody
woody on November 20, 2007 at 9:32 am

all the interior plasterwork as seen in Warrens photo still exists (existed) but painted black, the coffered ceiling is intact, the lower stalls walls are plain but i think from the photo they were always that way, the floor had been levelled and the balcony partly levelled so video booths could be fitted.
the main floor was a maze of booths all the way down to the stage, like something from the 7th layer of Hell, with crack whores wandering round in their underwear and drug dealers crusing the dark narrow spaces, i didnt venture in very far, i was too worried about my camera being robbed.
as one of the few remaining intact Times Square/42nd St area movie theatres it really should have been saved, or at least the sky scraper built around and over it like the Liberty.

Bway
Bway on November 20, 2007 at 9:05 am

Here’s the photo “Woody” posted:

View link

Here’s Warren’s historical interior photo, which shows the same ornamentation:

View link

Bway
Bway on November 20, 2007 at 9:02 am

Of course the entire fascade of the building is original, and according to someone’s photos of the interior somewhere up above, still showed some of the theater’s original ornamentation.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on November 20, 2007 at 6:43 am

Why would anyone want to go to the expense of moving the building to another site, and for what purpose? The theatre was of no architectural distinction, and I doubt that anything exists of the original except whatever holds it together.

NativeForestHiller
NativeForestHiller on November 19, 2007 at 10:16 pm

Quite interesting! Can you please send some photos if you have a chance? You can e-mail me at