Porno theater The Screening Room is forced to close after the city belatedly acknowledges that the venue’s main attraction was live sex.
The Screening Room, at 2130 Second Avenue South, was closed on Tuesday, November 27, when the Birmingham City Council revoked its business license.
The establishment, which operated for 25 years as an adult theater and video store, was also a popular site for swingers and those in search of anonymous sex. Operation New Birmingham president Mike Calvert, referencing “shocking public behavior” and “morals violations” at the location, told the council that he had sent a copy of a July 13, 2006, Black & White story (“ Shot in the Dark ”) that detailed ongoing sexual activity involving patrons at the theater to then-Birmingham Police Chief Annetta Nunn. A police raid of the business followed, though the theater remained in operation. Over the next year, several other vice squad stings occurred, with 16 people arrested.
During the council meeting, a police officer read excerpts from the article, written by J.R. Taylor. The officer did not hide his disgust with the activity observed at The Screening Room. He admitted that it is difficult to get police officers involved in such sting operations because “personal space” can’t be guarded as well as when conducting, say, an undercover drug buy. The officer described some Screening Room patrons alternately as “totally naked, sitting on a chair . . . masturbating . . . butt-naked.”
One downtown resident described the business as an example of the “toxic environments that are being allowed to spill over into our neighborhood.” An employee of a nearby architect’s office described having to step around the used condoms that often littered the sidewalk. Gary Bostany, president of the Five Points South Neighborhood Association, said that the surrounding neighborhoods have been aware of the illegal activity at The Screening Room for years. “I guess even the city and the police department, we’ve all sort of had a blind eye to it because there wasn’t much going on in that area as far as people living there and businesses; there’s a lot of warehouses,” said Bostany. “But all of that’s changed in the last couple of years. People are moving back, the warehouses are turning into condos, the businesses are coming back. It is an eyesore.”
After 15 minutes of commentary by citizens and business owners, an obviously disgusted Mayor Langford said that he had heard enough and immediately ordered police to park a tactical mobile unit truck in front of The Screening Room. The mayor said he would have the business closed by three that afternoon. “I hope we all take note of what occurred here today,” said Langford. “A community said it’s had enough. They weren’t afraid to come speak out.” &