Mexico City gets erotic twin sin-ema

Contempo will mix new adult-oriented pics with classics

MEXICO CITY — Coming soon to a Mexican theater near you: almost porn.

A group of Mexican businessmen has announced the opening of an independent movie theater devoted to “erotic” cinema — pics with sexual content that falls short of pornography.

The theater will be located in Mexico City’s Zona Rosa, a neighborhood known for its mix of glitz and grunge, a barrio where everything from a Cartier jewelry store to all-nude strip clubs have found a home.

The new project, to be called Contempo Cinema, will contain two screens, one with 198 seats and the other with 208, as well as a bar, restaurant and videostore specializing in erotic films. An opening date has not been set, but it’s expected to be in a few weeks.

“This is an idea I’ve had in mind for many years,” says Jorge Luis Novo, who heads the Contempo investors and has worked in film distribution for more than 15 years. “I’ve always felt that erotic cinema is an underexploited niche, while in countries like Italy it is a thorough success.”

To get the project off the ground, Novo located an out-of-use cinema in the Zona Rosa and rented it from its owner, Organizacion Ramirez, Mexico’s largest exhibitor. The rental price hasn’t been disclosed, but Novo says that startup costs are approximately $300,000. Novo says that if the experiment proves successful, he hopes to open more Contempo Cinemas in Mexico City and, later, throughout Mexico.

He holds up Rome as an example, claiming that the Italian capital alone has 30 such cinemas. For the time being, Contempo cinemas will mix new pics with classics in the erotic genre, such as “Last Tango in Paris,” “Basic Instinct” and “Wild Orchid.”

A spokeswoman for the theater says it would display a commitment to Mexican cinema and, as such, would likely show “Exxxorcismos,” helmed by Jaime Humberto Hermosillo, in coming months.

Contempo says it will studiously avoid pornography, raising the difficult question of how to define what is pornographic.

According to helmer Hermosillo, “erotic films use actors; pornographic films use porn stars who aren’t necessarily actors.”

The exhib plans to show only films which receive a “C” classification — which restricts audiences to 18 years of age and older — from Mexico’s film ratings board.

That rating is widely used in Mexico for nonpornographic pics; current films such as “The Passion of the Christ” and “Laurel Canyon” are classified as “C.”

Contempo intends to install eight closed-circuit cameras in the two theaters to ensure that auds behave “normally,” according to the spokeswoman. The theater will be open from midday to midnight, and tickets will cost between 35 and 40 pesos ($3 to $3.50), Novo says.