Last week, in my post about TWISTED NIGHTMARE, I wrote that I had seen the bloody Australian thriller VICIOUS! in the West Side Cinema twin back in December of 1988. I described the theater as "a roachtrap basement porno house that was taking a half-assed shot at legitimacy," which is true, but I didn't mention that for at least ten years prior to its stint as a skin palace, the West Side had been Times Square's big Spanish-language showcase, the Cine 1 & 2. I never went inside while it was the Cine 1 & 2, but I certainly remember when EL BARBARO opened there on December 26th, 1985. I only bring this up because EL BARBARO is the Spanish-language version of Lucio Fulci's CONQUEST, which United Film Distribution had opened in the New York tri-state area in April of 1984, over a year-and-a-half earlier; it had even played for several weeks at the Rivoli (shortly before it became the UA Twin), a stone's throw from the Cine 1 & 2. In fact, CONQUEST had already been out on VHS for at least six months by this point, because I had rented it back in May or June of '85 -- yet here it was getting a full-blown opening at the Cine 1 & 2: posters, lobby cards, banners, and even a life-size cardboard standee of Jorge Rivero on the sidewalk out front! God, do I miss the old Times Square.
After the theater operated as the West Side Cinema in the late '80s, it was renamed the Show Follies and went back to porn. When Rudy Giuliani's asinine 60/40 zoning law went into effect -- stores and theaters were deemed adult businesses if more than 40% of their merchandise consisted of porn -- the owner switched to more mainstream fare, and in its final days it was a video grindhouse not unlike the Roxy III on 42nd Street. I recall standing outside this theater in early 2002 with Video Watchdog's John Charles and Richard Harland Smith, the three of us trying to figure out who in their right mind would pay $8.00 to see the Steve Reeves LAST DAYS OF POMPEII and some early '90s direct-to-video Troy Donahue actioner on a lousy video projection system.
Below are some screen grabs of the Cine 1 & 2 as it appears in the Sonny Chiba movie THE BODYGUARD (1976).