Prestige and prurience : the decline of the American art house and the emergence of sexploitation, 1957-1972

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Metz, Daniel Curran

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“Prestige and Prurience: The Decline of the American Art House and the Emergence of Sexploitation, 1957-1972” presents a historical narrative of the art house theatre during the 1960s and its surrounding years, examining the ways in which art theatres transformed into adult theatres during the 1960s and 1970s. Beginning in earnest in the immediate post-war period, art houses in America experienced a short period of growth before stagnating in the middle 1950s. With the release in 1957 of the erotically charged Brigitte Bardot film …And God Created Woman, a new era of art houses followed, one that is characterized by the emergence of sexualized advertising, content and stars. As the 1960s came, sex films like The Immoral Mr. Teas played on art film marketing strategies and even screened in many art houses. Gradually, sexploitation films began to dominate art house programs and replace European art films and Hollywood revivals. In this transitional period, however, sexploitation films used key strategies to emulate many art film characteristics, and likewise art films used sexploitation techniques in order to maintain marketability for American distribution and exhibition. By studying the promotion and programming used by art house theatres during this period, this thesis identifies and announces a number of key trends within the dynamic period for art houses. The period is distinguished by its convergence of practices related to prestigious and prurient signs, merging art and sex in ways unique to the era and to the circumstances by which sex films infiltrated art houses and art films pandered to salacious interests. It presents a new perspective on the history of art houses, art cinema, American exhibition, sexploitation films, hardcore pornography and censorship.



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