The website of Dan Erdman
It’s as regular as the spring thaw – someone writes a story about the Kings Highway Theater in Brooklyn. The Voice and Brooklyn Paper have each published their take on the place, Vice has actually done so two times, and a host of blogs have followed suit as well. I’d imagine that at any given day there’s probably a writer in the audience at the Kings, but, given the suspicious repetition of key details from one story to the next (the non-porn movie-palace section of the Kings sure seems to be playing Papillon an awful lot), I wonder if everyone who claims to have made the trip has actually done so.
The latest example of the genre comes from Hopes & Fears; appropriately enough, I had hoped that it would have something new to say, but, as I feared, it was the same old thing: the writer gives a brief history of the theater, buys a ticket from the gruff doorman, takes a look in each room, notes the free coffee in the lobby, takes quick stock of the other customers, etc. Worst of all in this case, our humble servant even bails on the Kings itself after a few paragraphs, spending the rest of the article surveying the various adult video stores which have been able to cling to life in New York. I don’t mean to be bitchy – there are some kind of droll sentences to be found here, at least – but first-hand accounts of sleazy and low public amusements is a fine literary tradition, and very few of these trips to the Kings seem to have much to contribute (the Vice articles are okay). It’s a shame, since reports from down-on-the-heels movie theaters are a particularly rich source of inspiration for this, most memorably by Bill Landis and Michelle Clifford of Sleazoid Express (a commenter on the Hopes & Fears story bewilderingly compares it favorably to Sleazoid, but, yeah, in your dreams).
I’m no help – I lived in Brooklyn for three years and, despite periodic stiffening of my resolve, I never made it out to the Kings myself. Little did I realize that, despite what all of these stories claim, it’s not even the last of its type in New York, with at least the Fair Theatre in Jackson Heights keeping the public exhibition of pornography from becoming a local monopoly. Assuming it’s still around, I’d love to read more about that place. I’d be even more interested to learn about the scattering of adult cinemas throughout the United States – 116 left in the world according to Cinema Treasures, with probably a dwindling handful within these borders. Likely some of these are simply single-occupant booths in book stores (which, despite what the H&F correspondent seems to think, doesn’t count), but this also includes oddities like the Apache Drive-In of Tyler, Texas. It was a great big world out there, once.