The Reason Why Geneva’s Last XXX Cinema Survives

By | May 17, 2016 7:00 pm PST

The death of the last ‘adult’ cinema in Geneva seems to have been foretold for many years, Tribune de Geneve wrote recently. The ready availability of pornography online, much of it free, has killed off such cinemas in most other countries, including the last on in Singapore this month.

Yet while its audience at the Splendid cinema has shrunk by a third since the 90s, the cinema keeps going. Kaspar Schmid, the head of the parent company East Cinema, states that “we decided to continue the adventure, and even make some small investments.” The cinema recently installed new red leather chairs to fit in with the ambiance of the place. Future plans include a smoking room and a discreet side entrance for patrons.

The reason that Splendid keeps going and surviving by charging male customers Sfr 14.00 (USD $14.46) is because the City of Geneva will not permit them to change activities. Remarkably Splendid is not only cinema of its kind, with East Cinema operating a total of eight such cinemas acres the alpine country.

The two screen cinema in Place Grenus 3 has been operating since 1951, when it specialised in German-language rather than adult films. Erotic films only begun screening in the 1970s and the present owner took over the venue in the 1980s, with a renovation in 1988 to include video booth. The present configuration of the cinema dates back to 1999.

The strict Land Use Plans (LUP) in Geneva means that a cinema can only be closed or replaced by another similar operation. But with less than 100 seats, the Splendid is too small to operate as a regular cinema. Plus, Kaspar Schmidt adds, ‘For the City, we make the neighbourhood livelier.”

East Cinema previously closed its cinema in Freiburg in 2009 because the cinema was no longer suitable for the residential neighbourhood. Geneva’s Department of Construction and Planning, which is in charge of regulation and zoning, has said that it will consider a closure of the business, if the trader demonstrates that the business activity is no longer viable given the rest and other costs.

But Kaspar Schmidt has greater ambitions for Splendid, including forays into new technology for adult entertainment. Viewing videos in 3D was recently tested in the Zurich cinema, though it was not the success they had hoped for. So now Kaspar Schmid has set his sights on the next generation of XXX content. “We are now looking forward to virtual reality,” he reveals.

New red leather seats for the balcony at Splendid (photo: Pierre Abensur / Tamed)

New red leather seats for the balcony at Splendid (photo: Pierre Abensur / Tamed)

Patrick von Sychowski
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Patrick von Sychowski

Patrick was a Senior Analyst at Screen Digest, went on to launch the digital cinema operations of Unique and Deluxe Europe, then digitised Bollywood at Adlabs/RMW, and now writes, consults and appears on panels about cinema all over the world.
Patrick von Sychowski
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