May 2003 - Great
overview of Market Street Cinema from Stevi Secret, porn star and frequent
featured dancer at MSC.
Market Street Cinema is an old revamped movie theatre. It was originally opened in the 1920s as UA Theatre (Charlie Chaplin was at the grand opening). It remained a movie house for many years before becoming a strip club in the 1980s. There have been several different ownerships the most recent being the Bijou group which owns it in conjunction with Deja Vu. DejaVu in fact, owns all but a handful of the clubs in SF, acquiring them in bankruptcy court (the result of a dancer suit over tip outs won by the dancers) I believe I am essentially correct on this information but certainly if anyone more familiar wishes to add/correct anything, please do so.
MSC is located on Market St (Main St SF)in a rundown area known as the mid Market area (more on that later). It has a large marquee listing the stars appearing each week. Above the marquee and on signs gaudily posted in the entrance, you will see the club's slogan "See The Beauty, Touch The Magic" proudly proclaimed. Entrance occurs through a long, brightly lit entry way with nearly naked promo pictures of the stars and other dancers (viewable to passers by on the street). Once inside the doorway, you will come upon a booth containing the DJ/Manager of the shift. Admission is $20. The first section of the club (which your 20 bucks gets you into)is known as the main stage area. The actual main stage is in the back of the room, with a large number of very old theatre style seats facing it. There is a short runway that goes out into the crowd. In the back, are several rows of lap dancing booths for those not interested in watching the stage shows. The lighting varies but generally it is kept fairly dark in this room.
On the main stage, shows begin at 11 am and go to the wee hours of the morning. There is usually one or more features who perform 4 times daily on stage plus select housegirls. Those at the stage hold up tips for the dancers. Depending on the girl, many will leave the stage for a mini lap dance often times allowing the customer to touch their breasts and buttocks while dancing. Around the room a wide variety of housgirls (different ages, body types, ethnicities etc)will "hustle" customers for lap dances or a trip to "Sin City".
Entrance to "Sin City" (found at the side of the main stage) requires another fee (it has varied a bit but anywhere from $10-$20). Sin City has several rooms including the "Cinema Stage" (a small theatre where girls will lap dance while the customer watches pornos), The "Bangkok Room" a very nicely annointed stage area with comfortable seats (unfortunately there are rarely any performances) and the "PLayland Stage", a small, intimate stage room with comfortable seating designed for dancers to come down for mini laps and touching for tips. There are also throughout "Sin City" numerous private booths (special ones for the stars) where customers can recieve private shows with the dancer of their choice. Rates and services are negotiable but generally on the inexpensive side. The atmosphere is decidedly laissez faire with a huge discrepancy of opinion on the quality of the service.
San Francisco has a long tradition of non enforcement of prostitution laws (behind closed doors) and the club has certainly taken advantage of that. Just before my last trip there, MSC recieved a scare in this regard. Down the street, the ownership group owned the Strand Theatre, a big old movie house showing XXX features. The Strand had fallen into decay becoming a den of crack dealers and whores. After an investigation by SFPD The Strand was closed down and in an even more uncharacteristic move a dancer was busted for prostitution at MSC. For several weeks there were no "extras" offered at MSC although by the time of my visit last week things seemed to be back to normal. Although no outsider knows for sure, there is a movement in The City to redevelop the area of Market Street where MSC is located. Some feel that ultimately The Cinema may be targeted for closure.
Before (and if) all this occurs, anyone who can should consider a trip to SF and a visit to The Market Street Cinema. It's old (some feel rundown) but there is no denying it's uniqueness in the American strip club scene. It's one of the few places anywhere combining the highly charged atmosphere of strippers with open promotion of favors. There are other SF clubs where extras can also be obtained (most notably Mitchell Bros and New Century)in a more upscale (and in Mitchell's case equally but different unique style)atmosphere but none has the "love it or hate it" feel of The Cinema.
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