How Britons are helping to save the last pornhouse in Paris

Rory Mulholland
The Beverley is the last cinema in the capital still screening pornographic movies - This content is subject to copyright.

Maurice Laroche, the owner of the last porn cinema in a city once awash with X-rated movie theatres, has a soft spot for his British customers.

He displays a photo on his phone of an English woman standing naked among film reels in the storeroom of Le Beverley cinema.

"I just asked her for a regular picture but my English is not great so she misunderstood and stripped off to pose in the nude," he said with an affectionate smile.

Then there was the pair of young British gentlemen "who looked like rugby players."

Mr Laroche poses in the theatre.  - Credit: AFP/Getty Images

They bought tickets, went straight to the toilets, emerged a couple of minutes later wearing bras, miniskirts, tights and high heels, then settled down to watch the on-screen activities.

Britons are regular visitors to the 90-seat pornhouse tucked discreetly in a side street just round the corner from Le Grand Rex, the magnificent art deco cinema in the Grands Boulevards district of Paris.

They are dwindling in number, but a loyal band of old-style porn aficionados allows Le Beverley to stay open.

"We're just about breaking even," said Mr Laroche, who readily admits that it is nothing short of miraculous that his establishment has not folded given the unlimited amount of free porn available on smartphones and computer screens.

Until the mid-1970s any cinema in France could, and many did, include porn in their programme alongside children's movies, US blockbusters or French art house.

"I remember going twice to the same cinema in one day," said Mr Laroche, pausing to sell a customer a 12-euro ticket for which you can spend all day watching writhing naked bodies.

"In the afternoon there were about 20 people at a François Truffaut film but in the evening there were several hundred at a porn movie."

In 1975 the French government slapped extra taxes on pornographic entertainment, and made theatres register as X-rated if they wanted to screen adult material.

Maurice Laroche, director of the Cinema Le Beverley movie theatre - Credit: AFP/Getty Images

But the 70s were nevertheless a golden age for sex flicks in Paris. There were more than 50 porn theatres across the city, and the sector accounted for 15 per cent of all cinema tickets sold.

The advent of video however almost entirely killed off the communal viewing of porn films in France, as elsewhere.

Group consumption of pornography may be a thing of the past, but Mr Laroche is determined to keep up the tradition.

"Le Beverley is the only porn cinema in Paris recognised by the Centre National du Cinéma (the state cinema authority)," he says proudly.

He likes to regard his theatre as something of a gentleman's club, insisting that it is not for sordid seekers of cheap titillation. His punters, he says, are not shabby men in raincoats, but those who like to hold intellectual discussions on erotic literature and exchange tips on where to find the best restaurants.

Le Beverley hosted a weekly erotic poetry evening until a few years ago, and every Thursday and Saturday holds couples' evenings, to which lone men are not admitted.

"On those evenings we run the film but most of the action is among the audience," Mr Laroche said with a knowing look.

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He has a stock of around 150 feature-length French porn films on celluloid reels and these are screened all week every second week. Every other week Le Beverley shows more recent fare from DVDs.

Posters for these films are plastered all over the walls and ceilings of the cinema entrance.

When the Telegraph ventured beyond Mr Laroche's tiny box-office to enter the cinema, half of the ten or so men sitting on the red leather seats turned to stare.

The atmosphere was hushed and slightly tense. On screen a fully dressed blonde woman chatted to three men in a hotel bar.

Clothes were soon removed and the woman became entangled with her suitors. The rest of the movie was in the same vein, with much gratuitous copulation and little discernible plot.

Afterwards a middle-aged customer, who appeared a tad embarrassed to be accosted by a foreign journalist as he left a porn cinema, was unable to say if the movie was any good.

"I don't know," he said. "It was just sex. "

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