Historical preservationists have some very strange bedfellows… Don’t ask me how I stumbled across it, but this offbeat San Diego Reader piece by Jay Allen Sanford offers a detailed — if sometimes tediously lurid — look into the rise and fall of Southern California’s X-rated Pussycat Theater chain.
Whatever you might think of the Pussycat enterprise, the irony is it helped preserve many of Southern California’s most historic movie houses from near-certain demolition. The pornographic theater chain was the brainchild of Vince Miranda, who first invested in a legit movie house only to see it flounder. Deciding to run nudie films instead, he suddenly found himself building a profitable empire.
“At its peak in the ’70s, Pussycat operated 47 California houses, most of them classical theaters that had faded.”
In fact, Sanford’s piece on Miranda’s Pussycat chain is filled with historic photos of old movie palaces from San Diego to Buena Park, with a great deal of attention placed on several landmark theaters in the Los Angeles area. One such dilapidated movie palace was Huntington Park’s Lyric Theater, located at 7208 Pacific Blvd.
“[W]hen Vince Miranda bought into the chain, he sunk a fair amount of money into restoring the building to much of its former glory…”
Of course, there was also the more infamous Pussycat theater at 7734 Santa Monica, where Miranda took a giant risk by opening “Deep Throat” in November 1972.
“Soon, this Pussycat was the first in the chain to be raided and relieved of its Deep Throat prints, which were under contention as being obscene (and possibly illegal).”
This event caused a cascade of similar actions at other theaters, leading to the landmark 1975 Hicks v. Miranda case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled California’s obscenity statute unconstitutional.
The theater is a gay movie house today.
Miranda died of cancer in 1985. Soon after, the Pussycat chain began to implode, a victim of declining attendance and the home video market.