While we applaud the bravery of Berlin’s niche porn scene and progressive sex parties, the death knell continues to toll for the “traditional” sex industry. Last month marked the last days of Erotica, the first pornographic theatre to open in former East Berlin – and in fact, one of the first post-reunification businesses of any kind on the now-chichi Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße. Founded in 1990, Erotica traded in the usual venereal fare, flogging sex toys, skin mags and porn flicks on VHS (later DVD), but their real earners were the in-house sex cinemas and strip-teases. For €20, visitors could get access to the Kino, single cabins and live shows foran hour and a half – €15 extra would get the clients a “private session” with one of some six dancers that worked on-site.
Business boomed at Erotica thanks to its long-standing staff and an ageing yet loyal customer base.
Even as its competitors went out of business in the early oughts thanks to the internet, business continued to boom for Erotica. This was in part due to its prime location, bang next to the faceless tourism that chokes Alexanderplatz, but also because of its long-standing staff and an ageing yet loyal customer base (apparently locked-up Zimmer frames would block the pavement outside the shop). Nevertheless, in 2017 their rental contract came up, and whether for moral or monetary reasons (probably both), the owners refused to extend it. The staff tried to contest the decision, writing a heart-rending letter to the landlords asking them to reconsider, but they were apparently refused point blank, and told to stop wasting everybody’s time.
Before the changing of the keys in early January, artists Sarah Lüttchen and Stephanie Kloss convinced the shop’s manager to let them stage a one-night exposition among the heavy red velvet and faux-gilded strip poles, inviting 25 artists and two performers, including Saatchi-exhibited Ulrich Lamsfuß, to fill the space. It may be a little unfair to invoke Grayson Perry’s adage that artists are “the shock troops of gentrification”, but it’s ironic that the now vacant Kino is reportedly going to be replaced by an art supply store. Both Lüttchen and Kloss are sensitive to the shop’s plight, and have agreed, if the manager is able to find a new spot to relocate (he is actively looking), to do a similar event for the grand opening of Erotica 2.0. Until then, those who like their skin-flicks “vintage” will have to wait. As the message daubed on the Kino’s iconic heart-shaped sign read before its removal, “To be continued…”