Saturday, May 22, 2010

Blast From The Past: The Pussycat Theater Chain

Doc here with a little history lesson for all of The Good Doctor's readers...

What adult theater chain ruled the roost from the late 1960's until the mid-90's? Of course, it was the Pussycat Theater chain.  Flash forward to 2010, now there is only one left, "Studs" (which was also called the Tomkat for a period of time), which was once the epicenter of the Pussycat chain.  This location  in West Hollywood features the handprints and footprints of porn glitteratti, ala Mann's Chinese Theater. 

So here it is...Wikipedia-style:  History of The Pussycat Theater Chain


David F. Friedman and Dan Sonney founded the first Pussycat Theater. Dan Sonney invented the name, based on Woody Allen film What's New Pussycat. Friedman has also cited the Pink Pussycat burlesque club on Santa Monica Boulevard as having previously established the word "pussycat" in relation to "pink" porn, since the early 1960s. The first Pussycat Theater opened its doors in March, 1966 on 444 South Hill Street, Los Angeles. Two years later, there were almost a dozen locales, from San Diego to San Francisco.

In 1968, Vince Miranda bought a 50% share of The Pussycat. Miranda was not able to stop those outside California from using the Pussycat name. Miranda spent $1 million to improve the decorations of the theaters. They were also known for being cleaner and of higher quality than other porn theaters. The interiors featured red and gold carpeting, velveteen fixtures, beveled glass, mirror walls, chandeliers, oil paintings, murals, and merchandise bearing the Pussycat logo. Some Pussycat theaters sold popcorn from the ticket box to people on the sidewalk, with no obligation to buy a ticket.

Vince Miranda and George Tate - who were gay lovers - shared ownership of Walnut Properties, the company that owned the Pussycat Theaters. Miranda may have had exclusive California licence to show Deep Throat, a big money maker. His main competitors were the Mitchell Brothers.

Residents who lived near the theaters, complained to the city governments that children could see the images of women on posters, ads, and cardboard stand-ups. The residents wanted the theaters shut down. The citizens groups and government sued Walnut Properties under a variety of laws, including obscenity, public nuisance, rezoning, eminent domain, The Red Light Abatement Act, and the U.S. Supreme Court's "preponderance" redefinition of porn theaters. Walnut Properties was served with over 100 civil lawsuits filed between 1973 and 2005. Between 1977 and 1994, at the Pussycat Theater in Santa Monica, "the Los Angeles Police Department made 2000 arrests for lewd conduct on the premises.". In 1981, an ordinance was passed banning adult movie theaters in Santa Monica.

In 1983, porn video tape sales began to compete with porn theaters, reducing theater attendance. At the age of 52, Vince Miranda died of complications related to cancer in 1985. George Tate and his new boyfriend Jonathan Cota inherited Walnut and the Pussycat Theaters. The IRS imposes a federal tax lien of $6,047,760.00 on Miranda's estate. The theaters were losing money fast. Many theaters are given to debtors in place of money, and/or converted to general admission theaters.

By 1990, less than 20 California Pussycats remained, and by 1992, only a dozen Pussycats were still open. In 1994, Walnut Properties filed for bankruptcy, claiming liabilities of $17.7 million. George Tate spent all the money and died the same year. Jonathan Cota inherited Walnut and it's debts.

By 2001, all the theaters were lost except one at 7734 Santa Monica Boulevard. Film maker Roger Corman saved the last Pussycat Theater by brokering a deal with an unnamed buyer. In 2004, Cota threatened to file a lawsuit against the Pussycat Dolls, for trademark infringement on the Pussycat name. The U.S. Patent Office declared the Pussycat trademark to be "abandoned" and the case was dropped. Today, Cota runs the last Pussycat Theater. Now it shows gay porn. The name was changed to the Tomkat and then to Studs.
Doc here again... A clarification on the last paragraph: Studs shows primarily gay porn, but inside the theater there are several mini theaters.  One of these mini's shows stright porn. Hope you enjoyed this Blast From The Past.  Much more to come in the following days and weeks.