Playpen Theatre

693 8th Avenue,
New York, NY 10036

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Showing 1 - 25 of 126 comments

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on October 13, 2023 at 8:09 am

The Little Cine Met Cinema Verdi was at 104 west 39th street. The Arena was at 623 West 8th Avenue. When was this the Cinema Verdi?

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on October 13, 2023 at 4:43 am

As the Cinema Verdi, this theatre is occasionally confused with the Arena Cinema Verdi, both on 8th Avenue.

bigjoe59 on February 4, 2022 at 5:08 pm


I am not aware of exactly when actual porn debuted. to which on pg.1 of the photo section ads for such films as Vapors, Erotic Salad and Post-Graduate. I’m guessing by the dates given for the ads that they were exploitation films and not actual porn.

rbrenner on February 3, 2022 at 5:07 pm

For a research project I am working on, I would like to interview anyone who actually knew Chelly Wilson. If you knew Chelly Wilson, please reply to this comment.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on May 18, 2020 at 1:20 am

Two photo/clippings added

bigjoe59 on September 8, 2019 at 5:21 pm


I believe the Ideal Theater opened in 1915.

HomecrestGuy on February 21, 2019 at 4:49 pm

New old photos for the Ideal and Squire theaters, both former names for the Playpen, posted in Gallery. The Squire photo is from 1917 and of excellent quality, from the New York Historical Society. The Ideal image is from the NYC Tax Photos, 1940.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on March 27, 2017 at 10:14 am

That’s a pitiful opening description for a theater that lasted over 90 years…

Willburg145 on March 26, 2017 at 11:41 am

I went to the New Adonis (for research). I’m glad I got the chance to see the old theatre before it was closed. The balcony was still open.

biff33 on November 17, 2012 at 8:30 am

Another picture of the interior, when new, is here:

Matthew Prigge
Matthew Prigge on May 19, 2012 at 7:02 pm

I am working on a project to document the history of adult theatres in the US. If anyone has any person memories of the Playpen/ Adonis they would be willing to share, please contact me at mjprigge at uwm dot edu

jedidiah on December 14, 2011 at 4:20 am

Before it was the Playpen it was the Adonis (a different Adonis from the more famous one of the same name farther up 8th Avenue) and before it was the Adonis it was, of course, the Cameo, and I’m surprised that this theater doesn’t have a separate listing under that name because it was the “Cameo” for decades. Bill Landis (or, I should say, the late Bill Landis because he recently passed away) and his wife Michelle Clifford in their essential book on Deuce movie theaters, “Sleazoid Express,” devote a whole chapter to the Cameo and its owner, the infamous Chelly Wilson, the doyenne of Times Square smut palaces. Ms. Wilson deserves some sort of immortalization on the Deuce Walk of Infamy and if you can find Landis' excellent article on her that used to be posted on the Alpha Blue site, it is essential (and truly jawdropping) reading.

If I recall the book correctly, the Cameo is where the notorious roughie “Olga” movies played, but, more importantly, the Cameo played an important part in the history of Times Square pornography when in May of 1970 the film, “Sexual Freedom in Denmark,” premiered there. It was the first X-rated film to truly show “penetration” shots as compared to tamer less graphic adult flicks like “I am Curious (Yellow).” “Sexual Freedom in Denmark” was part of the wave of instructional adult films that were supposed to be documentaries or “how to” flicks, which is how they got away with the “redeeming social value” obscenity issue. Nowadays, they are known as “white coaters” because they usually had scenes of a sham doctor lecturing about the importance of sexual openness interspersed with the action shots. “Screw” magazine gave it the highest rating it ever bestowed on an X-rated film up to that point, and because of its explicitness it opened the floodgates of truly hardcore pornography that eventually overwhelmed Times Square.

“Sexual Freedom” played the Cameo for months. I saw the next film there in the fall of 1970 when I was a college freshman, “The Postgraduate Course in Sexual Love.” It was the first “adults only” film I ever saw. There was also a trailer for the next feature, “The Kama Sutra,” that, if my memory serves me correctly, featured an unknown (at that time) actor named John Holmes. I remember the theatre well: at that time it was still a comfortable, well-appointed, well-heated little theatre with a respectful, quiet audience. Years later (actually a decade later) I went back to the Cameo out of a combination of curiosity and nostalgia and it was a pure hellhole and indicative of how porn just totally trashed those Times Square theatres. The Cameo had been stripped of all of its prior interior comforts (carpeting, an ornamental urn in a niche as you entered the theatre), reeked of urine, and had tranny hookers patrolling the aisles for quickie tricks. It undoubtedly continued its inexorable decline down the sewer as it finally morphed into the Playpen and total decrepitude. But back then in the long ago time of 1970 it was still a lovely little theatre unkowingly about to succumb to venereal rot.

MNmn on October 4, 2011 at 2:49 pm

This is a new link to the photo of Cameo Theater, located on West 42nd Street: /theaters/6499/, as pointed out by “Tinseltoes” on December 10, 2010 at 1:54 pm

woody on October 13, 2010 at 5:14 am

photo from 2005ish which ive played around with using shift tilt thing on photoshop, a whole new look at the Playpen

Bway on December 25, 2009 at 11:29 am

Wow, that is a great photo, from the theater in “happier” days.

MNmn on December 24, 2009 at 11:28 pm

Photo from private archive shows RKO CAMEO THEATRE in May of 1930 –
View link
Reference – Sergei M Eisenstein. Biography by Marie Seton, NY 1960, page 160

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 20, 2009 at 2:34 am

The Ideal Theatre was built for Consolidated Amusements Enterprises, one of the largest of the early movie theater circuits in the east. The trade journal The Music Trade Review of November 6, 1915, published an encomium penned by Consolidated’s head, Lawrence Bolognino, in praise of the instruments of the American Photo Player Co., which had been installed in a number of the circuit’s houses.

The Ideal was then under construction, and a $5,000 Fotoplayer had been ordered for it. Other theaters being operated by Consolidated (each with a Fotoplayer among its accouterments) included the Drury Lane Theatre, the Regent Theatre, the Seventy-Second Street Playhouse, and the Morningside Theatre.

woody on May 7, 2009 at 9:08 am

here is a new high res scan of a previous photo i posted, taken in 1992 when the theatre was the Adonis
View link

Bway on April 16, 2009 at 12:41 pm

I always felt “sorry” for this theater when I would walk by and see it’s marquee with porn on it. The actual building had a lot of character on the outside, and it seemed a shame it was used for porn. Although now even worse, it’s a pile of rubble.

NativeForestHiller on March 1, 2009 at 5:45 am

Does anyone have any historic or semi-historic photos of this theater as the Ideal Theatre, Squire, Esquire, Cinecitta, Cameo, or Adonis? Any interior photos? Please e-mail me at and please point me in the right direction. I contacted the Avery Library, but no blueprints were on file. I will also contact some other sources, but would appreciate any advice. Thanks!

Bway on March 11, 2008 at 8:18 pm

Heh, it seems so strange with the neon lights out. I must have walked passed it more times than I can count over the years. I haven’t been by since it’s been knocked down. that will be even stranger…

NativeForestHiller on January 4, 2008 at 1:42 am

Here is a RIP list that was compiled by New York Magazine & a member of a popular blog. It features the Playpen/Ideal Theatre:

View link

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on January 4, 2008 at 1:36 am

There’s a big hole in the ground now.

William on December 4, 2007 at 12:55 pm

They are around the second floor now.