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Vancouver's last adult theatre loses lust, gains new lustre

A North American movie theatre.

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David Duprey says he plans to take a hands-on approach to scrubbing out Vancouver's last porn cinema to refurbish it into a venue for live music set to open later this year.

Mr. Duprey, who operates a mix of concert halls and eateries, said he plans to clean out the Fox Cinema himself with a crew en route to re-opening it in partnership with the braintrust behind the Waldorf Hotel, the now-closed hipster hangout in East End Vancouver.

"It's going to need some scrubbing," Mr. Duprey said of the Fox on Thursday, standing outside the tattered establishment on Main Street in the neighbourhood of Mount Pleasant with his business partner, Rachel Zottenberg.

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"Lots of bleach," he said, with relish. "When you want to get a job done right, sometimes you have just got to get in there and do it yourself."

That will mean dragging out 260 seats and other furniture and goods accumulated over the 30 years the Fox screened adult films in a neighbourhood that has evolved into one of the coolest in the city. There's a life-size painting of 1970s sitcom star Scott Baio in the women's washroom, Ms. Zottenberg noted.

"And the girl's washroom doesn't get used a lot, so [the painting] is in really good shape," Mr. Duprey quipped.

After dragging out what's inside, he will focus on cleaning "the living hell" out of what's left. "We take possession Aug. 1. I'll be cleaning Aug. 1."

That means many more afternoons like Thursday.

Inside the cinema – an oddly narrow and confined space – the show went on with a plotless movie on screen for a sparse audience. The routine has prompted community complaints and, at one point, an undercover police investigation that raised allegations of inappropriate activity.

The cinema has been an exception to a streetscape of cafes, boutiques, eateries and clothing stores along one of Vancouver's busiest thoroughfares.

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Rob Siddoo of Siddoo Kashmir Holdings, which owns the cinema and has agreed to a five-year lease for Mr. Duprey and his partners, said it was time for a change.

He said in an interview on Thursday that the existing tenant "has had some issues" but now "we're happy with the change" because they think a live theatre might be a good use for the property.

Mr. Siddoo said the lease for the existing tenant was coming up, so he was open to new tenants. "Basically the other tenant was done with the business there."

Mr. Duprey said he has begun talks with the city and province about how the site will operate. He said he expects, at this point, to be able to run a theatre with a liquor license and live music, but whether it will show movies and host a DJ remains unclear at this point.

"Ultimately, we'd love to have this be a multiuse venue that we could have live music, DJs, movies, comedy shows, dance performances. That would be our ultimate goal. Hopefully, the city will let us do that."

Mr. Duprey and Ms. Zottenberg said they saw the potential of the Fox when it became clear that the venue was up for grabs. "We didn't decide on the Fox theatre. The Fox theatre kind of decided on us," said Mr. Duprey, noting few venues in Vancouver could make such an easy transition to live music. "It's an amazing location and such a great opportunity."

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When they made inquiries, they realized the partners from the Waldorf were interested and agreed to work together. Rather than ditching the Fox's colourful past, they appear inclined to embrace it. "It's a fantastic name," Ms. Zottenberg said.

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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