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      I Got Creeped Out at Vancouver’s Last Porn Theatre

      July 12, 2013


      Photos from inside the Fox by Mish Way.

      I like to think of Vancouver as a teenage girl: always trying to improve herself with glittery, eye-catching accessories while desperately trying to remain authentic as to not be scrutinized too harshly by her peers. Ever since the 2010 Olympics, Vancouver has grown on top of itself. I don’t need to regale you with complaints about the high rise condominium towers which seem to constantly shoot up across our skyline, or the fact that most art and music venues have changed hands over and over causing turmoil through certain (and very vocal) communities. I, personally, don’t really have a problem with it. This is just what happens with a young, desirable city. It grows. Capitalism. I get it.

      I live in Mount Pleasant. This neighborhood was once a seedy back street just south of the drug-addled downtown east side, but it is now marketed as “a trendy neighborhood.” Even my own Air BNB profile is littered with this ridiculous lingo, in hopes that I will be able to rent my one bedroom apartment for twice the price when I’m out on the road. Over the past six years, I have watched Mount Pleasant’s grimy laundry mats, diners and video stores be replaced by Donnelly Group bars, boutique coffee shops, and Urban Outfitters-inspired clothing stores. Mount Pleasant now looks like its name, except for one sore thumb that seemed untouchable: Fox Cinema.

      Fox Cinema is Vancouver’s last porn theatre. Resting between the painfully high-end Lark boutique and a tailor-made suit store, the Fox Cinema was always a mystery. Everyone knew they played shitty old porn flicks and that the activity that went down there was seedy. But recently, Fox announced it would be closing its doors so they could renovate and become the replacement for The Waldorf Hotel—a multi-complex of music, art and bar activity—that was forced to shut down earlier this year.

      The old Waldorf crew—Ernesto Gomez, Thomas Anselmi, and Danny Fazio—have partnered up with David Duprey and Rachel Zottenburg from The Rickshaw, Rumpus Room, and The Narrow, to scrub the semen off the walls and turn the Fox into something more suited for the made-over neighborhood.

      I had never been in the Fox in its past iteration as a dirty movie theatre, but I was curious to see what was happening inside before it got made over. In 2009, neighbours complained about illegal prostitution and drugs going on inside the theatre so, Constable Mark Jarvie went undercover and, surprise, found some hookers. So, yes, the Fox was acting as a social club for anonymous blowjobs and a dark, semi-quiet place to shoot dope. The city was super pissed. The Fox’s owner, Xiaohua “Lisa” Huang, insisted that she only saw people freaking each other “once in a while at her former porn theatre. Not a big deal, right?

      Anyway, I decided to go to the Fox on a Friday evening with my friend Nick. Walking the four blocks down from my own apartment, I babbled to him about which porn might be playing, naively expecting one of the big budget actress I had spent time with at this year’s AVN Awards to be lighting up the screen. When we entered the theatre, an old, salty man stuffed behind a booth sat between a mess of small television sets.

      “$7.50 a piece,” he said barely looking up at Nick or I. As we paid the man, I tried to ask him questions about the closure. He looked at me as though I was crazy, remained tight-lipped, and waved us off.

      When we walked into the dank, dark theatre it was quiet except for the slapping noises of skin on skin coming from the screen. A young woman was being double teamed by two men. The fuzzy camera work bounced with her butt as she uttered little yelps. Straight porn. To the right of the entrance was a row of men standing in the dark, looking forward. Nick and I slipped into a row and I put a plastic bag on the seat before planting myself down. Nick passed me a swig of whiskey.

      “You’re sitting on a bag?” He asked.

      “Duh.”

      “Yeah,” he said. “I wore shitty pants for a reason.”

      The theatre was practically empty, except for a few men littered through out the rows of seats. The film was weirdly quiet and you could hear any movement one made. I imagined the obvious sound of dick stroking would not be masked by the porn movie. Dated porn is boring, and walking in halfway through makes it even worse.

      Within a mere 30 seconds, I felt a breath behind me. I turned my head around and saw a man drop himself in the seat directly behind mine. I knew he had moved to sit by me. That sickening stomach flip of rape fear—that I have had since understanding that I could in fact be raped—jelly beaned inside my stomach. I exhaled with annoyance. Nick noticed the man too, and made no objections when I whispered to him that we should get up and move seats. Sure enough, the man followed us. When we moved again, he did too. I focused up on the screen and on the mediated sex that was happening in front of me. Slap. Slap. Slap. Moan. I could feel the man breathing heavily right into my neck. Finally, the rage inside me thickened to a breaking point and I got up, grabbed my plastic bag and walked out. Nick followed.

      At the front, I demanded my money back from the man at the front. He shook his head and pointed down at a lamented piece of paper typed out in Times New Roman that said, “NO REFUNDS”.

      “Fuck it,” I said to Nick and we walked out. The whole thing lasted an unsuccessful 15 minutes.

      “I feel dumb for not saying anything to that guy,” Nick said as we walked down the street, “total pussy move.”

      “No,” I reassured him. “That place was fucked.”

      And it was fucked.

      It had little to do with gender. Nick got some lecherous looks from a bunch of different men—sitting along the back wall—who were staring him up and down from the minute we entered. In that space, anyone and everyone was a victim or a predator, or both, but it was really up to the individual. Fight or fuck. It’s going to happen anyways, so why not have a contained, safe haven where willing participants can frequent?

      I dissect pornography often and I think about the social implications of sex even more. I’m fascinated by our North American approach to sexuality. The muddled contradictions that rest in the assumed morality about sexual pleasure and the duty of reproduction. The existence of rape culture. The disconnect between our desires, our bodies and our sexual partners.

      Disappointed with my lack of investigation at the Fox, I began talking to a friend of mine who was working on the demolition crew revamping the building. His eyes lit up with the screen of his iPhone as he showed me photo after photo of all the writing on the walls designating blowjob zones and fuck-corners. Little notes and dates scrawled everywhere in Sharpie. He showed me the brown splatters of blood that were on the walls at the edge of every row of seats. Dope squirt. Pass out.

      Written on the wall of the men’s bathroom was: “The Fox is shutting down by June 30th. Let’s all get naked and fuck!”. He showed me the seats with a black light detecting the decades of semen laminated onto the wood. He said the floor was littered with used condoms, thousands of them, and little crunchy thongs scattered like desolate animal bones. A part of me was shocked by the utter filth of the place, while another felt like this was totally banal.

      The Fox was a secret club. The cheapest fuck-and-suck-free-for-all the city had. For a mere $7.50, those who wanted it could participate in anonymous sex with whoever they wanted for as long as they wanted and no one would say a word. It was a safe space for seedy sex, and by entering its doors I was participating.

      In some ways, I knew going to the Fox was going to end up like this. It would be like visiting a gun range, standing in front of one of the shooting targets, and being angry that I ended up with a bullet in my stomach. While a part of me hates the fact that I just meant every word of the last sentence I wrote (I do not condone “asking for it” rhetoric) I do understand the unfortunate reality of the world we live in.

      R.I.P. Fox Cinema.



      Follow Mish on Twitter: @myszkaway

      Previously:

      I Kinda Like Vancouver's Poodle in the Sky

      -

      Topics: Canada, Vancouver, bc, British Columbia, mish way, fox cinema, porn theatre, porn, sex, creepy, masturbation

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