For the film of the same name, see Grindhouse (film).
A grindhouse is an American term for a theater that mainly shows exploitation films. It is named after the defunct burlesque theaters located on 42nd Street in New York City, where 'bump n' grind' dancing and striptease were featured.
In the film Lady of Burlesque (1943) one of the characters refers to the burlesque theatre on 42nd Street, where they are performing stripteases and bump and grind dances, as a "grindhouse".
The introduction of television greatly eroded the audience for local and single-screen movie theatres, many of which were built during the cinema boom of the 1930s. In combination with urban decay after white flight out of older city areas in the mid to late 1960s, changing economics forced these theatres to either close or offer something that television could not. In the 1970s these theatres were put to new use as venues for exploitation films, either adult pornography and sleaze, or slasher horror and dubbed Martial Arts films from Hong Kong.
Grindhouse films characteristically contain large amounts of sex, violence or bizarre subject matter. Quality varied, but low budget production values and poor print quality were common. Critical opinions varied regarding typical grindhouse fare, but many films acquired cult following and critical praise. Double, triple, and "all night" bills on a single admission charge often encouraged patrons to spend long periods of time in the theaters. The milieu was largely and faithfully captured at the time by the magazine Sleazoid Express.
By the 1980s, home video and cable movie channels threatened to render the grindhouse obsolete. By the end of the decade, these 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, these particular theaters had all but disappeared from the United States. Very few are in existence today.
The concept of the grindhouse film has made several reappearances in modern popular culture. For example, the films, Planet Terror and Death Proof, which were released together as Grindhouse, were created as an homage to the genre. The 2011 video game, Shadows of the Damned also serves as a homage of the grindhouse horror movies, along with the zombie game House of the Dead: Overkill. The author Jacques Boyreau created a book about the Grindhouse Legacy and released Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box on 13 December 2009.