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The Pussycat Theaters were a chain of Adult movie theater, operating between the 1960s and the 1980s. Pussycat Theaters had 30 locations in California and were known for their cat-girl logo.
David F. Friedman and Dan Sonney founded Pussycat Theaters. 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 in March 1966 on 444 South Hill Street, Los Angeles. Within two years, there were almost a dozen locations, from San Diego to San Francisco.
In 1968, Vince Miranda bought a 50% share of the company. Miranda was unable to prevent those outside California from using the Pussycat name. Miranda spent $1 million to improve the decor of the theaters. They were known for being cleaner and fancier than other such places. 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 box office to pedestrians on the sidewalk, with no obligation to buy a ticket.
Vince Miranda and George Tate (who were lovers) shared ownership of Walnut Properties, the company that owned the Pussycat Theaters. Miranda may have had exclusive California license to show Deep Throat, a hugely lucrative film. 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. Community members wanted the theaters to close. 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 US 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, pornographic videotape sales began to compete with adult theaters, reducing theater attendance. At the age of 52, Vince Miranda died of complications related to cancer in 1985. George Tate and his new paramour Jonathan Cota inherited Walnut and the Pussycat Theaters. The IRS imposed a federal tax lien of $6,047,760 on Miranda's estate. The theaters were losing money fast. Many theaters are given to debtors in lieu of money, and/or converted to general admission theaters.
By 1990, fewer than 20 California Pussycats remained, and by 1992, only a dozen 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 its debts.
By 2003, all the theaters were lost except one at 7734 Santa Monica Boulevard. Filmmaker 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 and Trademark Office declared the Pussycat trademark to be "abandoned" and the case was dismissed. Today, Cota runs the last Pussycat Theater, which now shows gay pornography. The name was changed to the Tomkat, then to Studs.
- Pussycat Theaters - a Comprehensive History by Jay Allen Sanford, published 6-30-10
- Pussycat Theater History - San Diego Reader
- Pussycat, Pussycat, Where Have You Been?
- Pussycat Theatre - Cinema Treasures
- Pussycat Theater - Google Newspapers
- Pussycat Theater - Google Books
- Pussycat Theaters - the Inside Story Part One, published 7-12-14
- Pussycat Theaters - the Inside Story Parts Two-Fifteen, published 7-12-14