Ninety three years ago, Anaheim’s Grand Theatre opened to great fanfare, with a sold out showing of “Romona”, that was eagerly attended by the county’s top dignitaries and VIPs. Being one of the first Orange County theatres built outside of Santa Ana, the June 12, 1916 opening was a source of great pride for the city of Anaheim. Yet, the Grand’s prestigious start was a far cry from how this “modern wonder of engineering and beautiful luxury” would spend the second half of it’s sixty seven year run.
By the 1950’s, the Grand had begun a rather dramatic slide from prominence, falling victim to the common challenge of being an aging attraction in an ever expanding market of “newer”, “bigger”, and “better”. Facing increasing hardship, the Grand was briefly closed in 1955, before being reopened, as the Garden Theatre; moving in to the realm of B film booking for the next two decades. In an attempt to stay financially viable, this move also resulted in the theatre finding the need to keep pace with a demand for mature content; B schlock gave way to softcore “adults only” films, which ultimately resulted in hardcore pornography by the late 70’s.
In 1978, the theatre was added to the Pussycat chain of adult cinemas and renamed the Pussycat Garden. While only staying open for another four years, the venue became notorious for both the pornographic films being shown and a series of legal battles between the City of Anaheim and the theatre’s controversial operators. In 1983, the city finally managed to shutter the theatre, via condemnation powers, razing the site for newly zoned housing usage. The legal battles continued until the Summer of 1986, when Anaheim managed to reach an out of court settlement with Pussycat for $800,000 (the chain had previously demanded $1.2 million). The one time “pride of Anaheim” was paid to simply go away.
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