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What is a Grindhouse?

edited December 2010 in Movie Discussion

A grindhouse is an American term for a theater that mainly showed exploitation films. It is also a term used to describe the genre of films that played in such theatres. Grindhouse films are also referred to as "exploitation films." Grindhouses were known for non-stop programs of B movies, usually consisting of a double feature where two films were shown back to back. Many of these inner-city theatres formerly featured burlesque shows which included "bump and grind" dancing, leading to the term "grindhouse." Beginning in the late 1960s and especially during the 1970s, the subject matter of grindhouse films was dominated by explicit sex, violence, bizarre or perverse plot points, and other taboo content. Many grindhouses were exclusively pornographic.

The 1980s home video market threatened to render the grindhouse obsolete. By the end of that decade, grindhouse theaters had vanished from Los Angeles's Broadway and Hollywood Boulevard, New York City's Times Square and San Francisco's Market Street. By the mid-1990s, they had completely disappeared from the United States.

There remains a strong nostalgic affection towards the now defunct grindhouse era amongst some cinephiles. An example is the film Grindhouse (2007). One half of this double feature was directed by Quentin Tarantino; the other half was directed by Robert Rodriguez. The films contain elements found in many grindhouse films. The two films are bridged by trailers for fictitious films that also fit into the grindhouse genre (sexploitation, slasher films, etc.). Grindhouse also features simulated film negative scratches and some clipped dialogue, to recreate the feeling that the print of the film is a worn and battered copy, which was often true of the prints of many films grindhouse theaters showed in their heyday.
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