The last official porn cinema in London closed its doors in 2016 – just days after it opened, when a horrified landlord found out what the space had been rented for. So now there’s nowhere to go and watch a filthy skin flick. To fill the gap, Matthew Holroyd, co-founder of Baron magazine, launched The Paradiso Cinema, a pop-up pastiche of the city’s sweaty 1970s porn dens. He tells us why the erotic films of The Paradiso are about helping the audience expand their minds, not handle their members.
How do you go about creating that old porn cinema atmosphere at The Paradiso?
‘It’s quite fun. We have a great lighting director, so the room is lit in red, and we also have a sex shop that’s not really a sex shop – it’s a bookshop selling erotic publications.’
What kind of films can Londoners see at your events?
‘This time we’re screening “Destricted” which is [made up of] seven short films by established artists like Larry Clark, Marina Abramović and Sam Taylor-Johnson. They really ask the question “What is pornography, and what’s the difference between an artist’s short film about sex and sexuality and a pornographic film?”’
Did you do much research into adult cinemas?
‘I went to one before we launched to see what it was like. It was in an illegal venue in a basement that was a bit damp. It wasn’t very nice. The name of our cinema is actually based on a song by a 1990s rock band called Dream City Film Club who were named after a porn cinema in Clerkenwell that burnt down. One of their first releases was called “Porno Paradiso”.’
What have people made of it so far?
‘When we first started, some of the attendees, who were men, thought it would be a proper pornographic cinema. One came in a mac and lingerie. I was sweating thinking, “Oh God, he’s got the wrong idea”. And then afterwards, he said it reminded him of the screenings he went to in the ’70s and ’80s, seeing Andy Warhol’s “Blue” in these old sheds, and thought we’d really captured that spirit.’ Katie McCabe
The Paradiso Cinema. London Edition hotel. Thu Feb 14. £10, includes a Love Punch cocktail.