Amour Theatre

615 N. Chaparral Street,
Corpus Christi, TX 78401

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Additional Info

Previous Names: Studio III Theatre, Doll House, Sun Adult Theatre, Adult Movies Theater

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Houston-based Trans-Continental Artists Theatres Circuit opened the first hardtop adult cinema in Corpus Christi. The Studio III Theatre launched during the porno chic era of movie exhibition opening August 30, 1968 with stereo sound – presumably because they cared about the presentation. Trans-Continental Artists had dropped its production division known for such films as “Mondo Sexo” to concentrate on theatrical exhibition. It was the circuit’s seventh city in its expansion past Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, El Paso plus one location in California and two in Arizona. The opening titles were Lorna Maitland in Russ Meyer’s “Mudhoney” supported by Dianne Curtis in “Tropic of Scorpio".

The Studio III started as a single, adult mini-cinema consisting of 161 seats and the unusual tagline of, “If you miss attending the Studio III, you will hate yourself". The venue was likely not a welcomed neighbor for the family-oriented S.H. Kress Variety dime store next door at 619 N. Chaparral Street. The Studio III was operating in the once-popular Mangel’s Dress Store - an annex to the Mangel’s Department Store nearby. Charles M. Martinez was the theatre’s manager and he likely had a hotline to lawyers as the City of Corpus Christi had what might be considered a frequent moviegoer pass raiding the theatre constantly throughout the Studio III’s first 5.5 years of operation. The Studio III’s first raid was in October of 1968, just six weeks into its operation. It would not let up.

The Corpus Christi police often took the films, the cashier, the projectionist, the manager, and even the 16mm projectors – an overreach in most legal scholars’ eyes - to prevent the venue from operating successfully. In 1973, just after the landmark Miller v. California Supreme Court decision on obscene materials was released, the City went full bore into the – then – three Corpus Christi hardtop adult cinemas hoping to drive them into nonexistence. Local law officers harassed customers, arrested patrons, and continually took equipment and prints. And the campaign behind D.A. William Mobley worked.

Two of the venues – the Queen Cinne Arts Theatre (formerly the Melba Theatre) and the Amusu Adult Theatre (formerly Amusu Theatre) were closed on NDAs worried about their employees’ futures potentially behind bars and possibly bankrupt. The Studio III was the last adult theatre standing in December of 1973. On January 22, 1974 after showings of “Yellowbeard” and an unnamed title, the Studio III was raided for the last time and ordered closed by the City. The operators soon agreed to an NDA to keep their employees and, apparently, a patron and/or a performer out of jail.

In 1975, court decisions in Dallas, San Angelo, and San Antonio finally agreed with legal scholars’ opinions years earlier – the cities and the police techniques had trampled on First Amendment rights in their zeal and misreading / misapplication of Miller v. California. The Studio III operators returned coming back to life as the Doll House Theatre, and - under various operators - as the Sun Adult Theatre, the Sun Adult Arcade, the Adult Movies Theatre, the twin screen Amour Theatre, and – in the home video era, Bayfront Video closing from March 27, 1987 to closing in 1988.

In the longest of long shots, the porno chic theatre had lasted – albeit with different operators – to the end a 20-year lease and lasting into the home video era of adult cinema. Neither the programming nor the architecture rate a true Cinema Treasure; yet Trans-Continental Artists, if remembered at all, should be given mondo recognition for fighting for First Amendment rights in trying to present a form of cinema facing insurmountable odds under constant pressure and overreach by local officials.

S.H. Kress outlived the adult cinema closing in January of 1992 and its building has survived into the 2020’s. The former cigar store turned dress shop and adult cinema has been razed.

Contributed by dallasmovietheaters
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