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Adult Theater Goes Art House, Gets 'Detailed Sterilization'

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The Metro Theatre opened in 1939.
The Metro Theatre opened in 1939.

The Metro Theatre's conversion from porn palace to indie art house is going to take some doing. "We're coming up with a really detailed sterilization process," said Nadia Sandhu, one of the partners behind the venture, to the CBC.

Good to know.

The 1930s-era Toronto theatre had its roots in the avant garde and B fare. Then it morphed into an X-rated cinema in the 1970s, before the VCR and digital revolution made it and most other smut venues obsolete, according to reports.

Sandhu and associate Jonathan Hlibka hope the kitsch factor appeals to hipsters and cinephiles, wrote the Toronto Star, and that the theater can serve as an antidote to modern cineplexes. “I love the space," Hlibka told the paper. "I love how ostentatious and how gaudy it is. It's charming."

The first legit film is scheduled to premiere Aug. 24. Sandhu and Hlibka are moving cautiously in the small-business endeavor -- perhaps a good idea considering the theater's recent history. It's been on the market for a decade, according to the CBC, and is listing for $3.8 million. Its current owner is millions in debt, the Star wrote. Hlibka told the paper he wanted patrons to think of it for now as a pop-up shop.

The partners plan to show indie and foreign films four nights a week, but the theater will continue to screen porn by day. "The depressing possibility is that as much as the theatre’s clientele has dwindled over the years, it might still be a struggle to replace them with a steady stream of mainstream moviegoers," The Grid wrote.

Another attempt to resurrect a porn theater met with mixed results in North America's porn capital, Los Angeles. The famous Pussycat Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, which screened "Deep Throat" for 10 years beginning in the '70s, became the Ritz Theatre for third-run mainstream movies in 1989, according to Cinema Treasures. That closed just two years later and the theater is now used by a church.

While the Metro's seats are being recovered and the grime is being removed, the makeover entrepreneurs don't intend to wipe away the theater's past. The crystal chandeliers and hand-painted Julie Andrews (as Mary Poppins) and Charlie Chaplin portraits will reportedly remain. The Grid said that the lobby's display of porn posters and memorabilia may stay as well.

Sandhu told the CBC there would be daily cleanings after the porn crowd lets out. Also good to know.

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