Oct. 03--The era of XXX-rated movie theaters may be at an end in Baltimore, with the city's last adult movie house up for auction next week.
The Apex, which has shown pornographic films for more than four decades in a squat two-story brick building in Upper Fells Point, might go cheaply and will likely be redeveloped. Andy Billig, of A.J. Billig and Co. Auctioneers, said the building "is in need of renovation" and that its owners are intent on letting it go.
The theater achieved landmark status with the help of its most well-known cheerleader, Baltimore filmmaker John Waters. On Wednesday, Waters, who used the Apex in his 2000 movie "Cecil B. DeMented," said he would be sad to see it go.
"I think the Apex lived in peace with its community for decades, which I think is amazing," Waters said.
The cinema, at 108 S. Broadway, opened in 1942 with a showing of "Remember Pearl Harbor." It switched to adult films in 1972.
"It was always a mixed crowd, from homeless people to exhibitionists to movie cinema lovers," Waters said. "I think it's a wonderful place."
Billig said there is a "very low" minimum price for the 580-seat theater, but declined to release it. The auction is set for Oct. 11. The tenant is on a month-to-month lease, he said.
So far Billig said he's had interest from churches, but says the building could also work as a regular movie theater or even housing. He described the cinema as "worn out" but said it was ripe for redevelopment.
The Apex was known for drawing sparse crowds. Billig said it may have fell victim to changing technologies.
"In this day and age, people have computers," he said.
Waters said he was asked multiple times on Wednesday after the news of the auction broke if he would buy the theater, but said he had no intentions on doing so. If he needs to remember the place, he said he has a miniature model of the building that he once got as a Christmas gift.
The creator of "Hairspray" lamented the loss of other adult movie theaters in Baltimore over the decades, including the Rex Theater and the Earle Theatre. Both of those cinemas have since been converted into churches, he said.
"I think it's a landmark that I'll miss," Waters said. "Every time I drove past it I felt a little bit better."
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