A grindhouse or action house[1] is an American term for a theater that mainly shows exploitation films. According to historian David Church, this theater type was named after the "grind policy", a film-programming strategy dating back to the early 1920s which continuously showed films at cut-rate ticket prices that typically rose over the course of each day. This exhibition practice was markedly different from the era's more common practice of fewer shows per day and graduated pricing for different seating sections in large urban theaters, which were typically studio-owned.

42nd St, NYC, Lyric Theatre, 1985
42nd Street in 1985 Times Square, showing the Lyric, one of several grindhouses at the time


Due to these theaters' proximity to controversially sexualized forms of entertainment like burlesque, the term "grindhouse" has often been erroneously associated with burlesque theaters in urban entertainment areas such as 42nd Street in New York City,[2][3] where "bump and grind" dancing and striptease were featured.[4] In the film Lady of Burlesque (1943) one of the characters refers to one such burlesque theatre on 42nd Street as a "grindhouse," but Church points out the primary definition in the Oxford English Dictionary is for a movie theater distinguished by three criteria:[2]

  1. Shows a variety of films, in continuous succession
  2. Low admission fees
  3. Films screened are frequently of poor quality or low (artistic) merit

Church states the first use of the term "grind house" was in a 1923 Variety article,[5] which may have adopted the contemporary slang usage of "grind" to refer to the actions of barkers exhorting potential patrons to enter the venue.[2]

Double, triple, and "all night" bills on a single admission charge often encouraged patrons to spend long periods of time in the theaters.[6] The milieu was largely and faithfully captured at the time by the magazine Sleazoid Express.

Because grindhouse theaters were associated with a lower class audience, grindhouse theaters gradually became perceived as disreputable places that showed disreputable films, regardless of the variety of films — including subsequent-run Hollywood films — that were actually screened.[7] Similar second-run screenings are held at discount theaters and neighborhood theatres; the distinguishing characteristics of the "grindhouse" are its typical urban setting and the programming of first-run films of low merit, not predominantly second-run films which had received wide releases.

Television pressure

The introduction of television greatly eroded the audience for local and single-screen movie theaters, 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 theaters to either close or offer something that television could not. In the 1970s, many of these theaters became venues for exploitation films,[4] either adult pornography and sleaze, or slasher horror and dubbed martial arts films from Hong Kong.[8]


Films shot for and screened at grindhouses characteristically contain large amounts of sex, violence, or bizarre subject matter. One featured genre were "roughies" or sexploitation films, a mix of sex, violence and sadism. 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.


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. Another example was the ‘JO-LAR Theater’ in Nashville, Tennessee, on lower Broadway; active until it burned down around 1976 or so.

By the mid-1990s, these particular theaters had all but disappeared from the United States. Very few exist today.


The Robert Rodriguez film Planet Terror and the Quentin Tarantino film Death Proof, which were released together as Grindhouse in 2007, were created as an homage to the cinematic genre. Similar films such as Machete (also by Rodriguez), Chillerama, Drive Angry and Sign Gene have appeared since.

Red Dead Revolver, The House of the Dead: Overkill, Wet, Shank, RAGE, Shadows of the Damned and Zombie Hunter are several examples of video games that serve as homages to the grindhouse movies.

The author Jacques Boyreau released the book Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box in 2009 about the history of the genre.[9] The field is also the focus of the 2010 documentary American Grindhouse.

The Syfy TV show Blood Drive takes inspiration from grindhouse, with each episode featuring a different theme.

The novel Our Lady of the Inferno is both written as an homage to grindhouse films and features several chapters that take place in a grindhouse theater.[10]



Grindhouse marquees along 42nd St (New York City, 1973)

Broadway Theater and Commercial District, 300-849 S. Broadway; 8.3

Million Dollar Theater in Los Angeles (2012), marquee advertising Mickey One and Blast of Silence

SF Theatre cinema

Theaters in San Francisco (1956)

Portage Theater

Portage Theatre in Chicago (2007)


  1. ^ Green, Jonathon (2 October 2013). "Dictionary of Jargon (Routledge Revivals)". Routledge – via Google Books.
  2. ^ a b c Church, David (Summer 2011). "From Exhibition to Genre: The Case of Grind-House Films". Cinema Journal. 50 (4). doi:10.1353/cj.2011.0053. Archived from the original on 11 May 2018. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  3. ^ Church, David (2015). Grindhouse Nostalgia: Memory, Home Video, and Exploitation Film Fandom. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Archived from the original on 11 May 2018. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Grindhouse". Archived from the original on 5 August 2010. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  5. ^ "Two-a-Day Policy Failure in Canadian Grind Houses". Variety. 6 December 1923. p. 19.
  6. ^ Sanford, Jay Allen (17 February 2010). "Last of the all-nighters — My life on downtown's Grindhouse Theater Row in the 70s and 80s". San Diego Reader. Archived from the original on 25 March 2017. Retrieved 24 March 2017. I spent my first night in San Diego sleeping in the back row of the Cabrillo Theater.
     In that pre-Gaslamp, pre-multiplex downtown of 1978 or so, half a dozen wonderfully eclectic – if mildly disreputable – late night movie houses operated within a few blocks of each other. Each grindhouses was a colorful oasis, plopped down in the middle of a seedy urban sprawl perfectly suited to the sailors on shore leave and porn aficionados that comprised much of its foot traffic.
     A couple of bucks got you a double or triple bill, screened ‘round the clock in cavernous single-screen movie theaters harkening back to Hollywood’s golden age, rich in cinematic history and replete with big wide aisles and accommodating balconies. Horton Plaza had the Carbillo [sic] and the Plaza Theater, both operated by Walnut Properties, whose owner Vince Miranda maintained a suite at the Hotel San Diego (which he also owned).
  7. ^ Hendrix, Grady (6 April 2007). "This Old Grindhouse". Slate. Archived from the original on 25 March 2017. Retrieved 24 March 2017. Because grindhouse theaters were nasty places, full of nasty people, and most of us wouldn't be caught dead in one. The few folks who were there for the actual movies were either poverty tourists or cinephiles who didn't notice anything except the flickering screen, and, in many cases, their cinephilia had burned out their sense of discrimination, because a lot of the movies that showed in grindhouses were bad.
  8. ^ "Cult Couture: THE GRIND-HOUSE". Fangoria. Archived from the original on 2009-10-14.
  9. ^ Heather Buckley. "Attend the Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box Launch Party in Seattle". DreadCentral. Archived from the original on 2009-12-05.
  10. ^ Lee, Izzy. Fangoria Presents to Reissue Our Lady of the Inferno


External links

American Grindhouse

American Grindhouse is a 2010 documentary directed and produced by Elijah Drenner. The film made its world premiere at the South by Southwest film festival in Austin, Texas on March 13, 2010.

Blood Drive (TV series)

Blood Drive is an American science fiction action television series that aired on Syfy from June 14, 2017 to September 6, 2017. On the same day that the finale aired, series creator James Roland announced that Syfy had decided to cancel the series after one season.

Bob Murawski

Bob Murawski (born June 14, 1964) is an American film editor as well as a film distributor of cult horror and independent films under the "Box Office Spectaculars" and "Grindhouse Releasing" labels. He was awarded the 2010 Academy Award for Best Film Editing for his work on The Hurt Locker, which he shared with fellow editor Chris Innis. He often works with film director Sam Raimi, having edited the Spider-Man trilogy, Oz the Great and Powerful, and the 2015 remake of Poltergeist. He is an elected member of the American Cinema Editors.

Death Proof

Death Proof is a 2007 American exploitation horror film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. It stars Kurt Russell as a stuntman who murders young women in staged car accidents using his "death-proof" stunt car. It co-stars Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd, Rose McGowan, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Tracie Thoms and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, with stuntwoman Zoë Bell as herself. The film pays homage to the slasher, exploitation and muscle car films of the 1970s.

Death Proof was released theatrically in the United States as part of a double feature with Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror under the collective title Grindhouse, to recreate the experience of viewing exploitation film double features in a "grindhouse" theater. The films were released separately outside the United States and on DVD, with Death Proof going on sale in the U.S. on September 18, 2007. The film was in the main competition for the Palme d'Or at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.

Death Proof (soundtrack)

Death Proof is the soundtrack to Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino's segment of 2007 film Grindhouse. It includes clips of dialogue from various scenes in the film.

Earl and Edgar McGraw

Earl McGraw and his son Edgar McGraw are two fictional characters played by Michael Parks and James Parks. They appear in several feature films by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, including the From Dusk till Dawn franchise, Kill Bill: Volume 1, and in various works from the Grindhouse project. Despite being killed off in his first appearance in From Dusk till Dawn, various characters named Earl and Edgar have returned in several other films from Rodriguez and Tarantino. Talking with a heavy Texas accent and delivering profanity laden dialogue, the Earl character often serves as comic relief. He and Edgar are consistently portrayed as Texas Rangers. Edgar is portrayed by James Parks, the real-life son of Michael Parks. Earl has a daughter who is introduced in the Grindhouse films, named Dakota, played by Marley Shelton, who plays a large role in Planet Terror. Dakota also appears in the television series portrayed by Nicky Whelan.

Exploitation film

An exploitation film is a film that attempts to succeed financially by exploiting current trends, niche genres, or lurid content. Exploitation films are generally low-quality "B movies". They sometimes attract critical attention and cult followings. Some of these films, such as Night of the Living Dead (1968), set trends and become historically important.

Grindhouse (film)

Grindhouse is a 2007 American horror film double feature co-written, produced, and directed by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. The double feature consists of two feature-length segments, Rodriguez's Planet Terror and Tarantino's Death Proof, and is bookended by fictional trailers for upcoming attractions (though three of the trailers, Machete, Machete Kills and Hobo with a Shotgun, have since been made into movies), advertisements, and in-theater announcements. The film's title derives from the U.S. film industry term "grindhouse", which refers to (now mostly defunct) movie theaters specializing in B movies, often exploitation films, shown in a multiple-feature format. The film stars Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Marley Shelton, Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, Josh Brolin, Naveen Andrews, Fergie, Bruce Willis, Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and stuntwoman Zoë Bell, who plays herself.

Rodriguez's segment, Planet Terror, revolves around an outfit of rebels attempting to survive an onslaught of zombie-like creatures as they feud with a rogue military unit, while Tarantino's segment, Death Proof, focuses on a misogynistic, psychopathic stuntman who targets young women, murdering them with his "death proof" stunt car. Each feature is preceded by faux trailers of exploitation films in other genres that were developed by other directors.

After the film was released on April 6, 2007, ticket sales performed significantly below box office analysts' expectations despite mostly positive critic reviews. In much of the rest of the world, each feature was released separately in extended versions. Two soundtracks were also released for the features and include music and audio snippets from the film. The feature later found more success on DVD and Blu-ray. In several interviews, despite the box office failure, the directors have expressed their interest in a possible sequel to the film due to its critical acclaim and successful home media sales. Three spin-off films were later made, based on Grindhouse's fake trailers: Machete, Machete Kills and Hobo with a Shotgun.

Grindhouse Releasing

Grindhouse Releasing is a Hollywood-based independent cult film distribution company led by film editor Bob Murawski and co-founded by Sage Stallone. Grindhouse digitally remasters, restores, and produces bonus materials and video documentaries for cult film DVDs and Blu-rays which it distributes on the CAV label.Grindhouse focuses on the distribution of rare and little-seen independent cult films. Releases have included The Swimmer, a surreal drama featuring Burt Lancaster; The Big Gundown, a spaghetti western with Lee Van Cleef; and Corruption, a British film starring Peter Cushing.

Grindhouse was the first company to digitally remaster and restore the stylish Italian horror films from the 1970s and 1980s such as Cannibal Ferox (Make Them Die Slowly), Lucio Fulci's The Beyond (E tu vivrai nel terrore), as well as the notorious cult classic Cannibal Holocaust directed by Ruggero Deodato. The company also restored and coordinated a limited theatrical re-release of American filmmaker Sam Raimi's cult classic The Evil Dead.The company has been called the "Criterion" of cult film distribution, employing the highest standards for quality and deluxe bonus materials on their Blu-ray and DVD releases. Coco Hames of the Nashville Scene says of the company: "A Grindhouse release has a rotgut seal of approval, whether it's the kind of gore epic that once played grimy 42nd Street cinemas (Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust), an overlooked Hollywood rarity (Frank Perry's The Swimmer), or a long-lost movie by an obsessive auteur that never saw the light of day (Duke Mitchell's Gone with the Pope)".Grindhouse Releasing was awarded the 2015 International Press Academy's Satellite Award for "Outstanding Overall Blu-Ray/DVD" for its Blu-ray release and restoration of Frank Perry's cult film, The Swimmer.

Hobo with a Shotgun

Hobo with a Shotgun is a 2011 Canadian-American black comedy action exploitation film directed by Jason Eisener, written by John Davies, from a story by Eisener, and starring Rutger Hauer. It is based on a faux-trailer of the same title featured in the Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez film Grindhouse.

Josh Brolin

Joshua James Brolin (; born February 12, 1968) is an American actor. Brolin is known for his wide range of films such as The Goonies (1985), Mimic (1997), Hollow Man (2000), Grindhouse (2007), No Country for Old Men (2007), American Gangster (2007), W. (2008), Milk (2008), True Grit (2010), Men in Black 3 (2012), Inherent Vice (2014), Sicario (2015), Hail, Caesar! (2016), Deadpool 2 (2018), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and Avengers: Endgame (2019).

Brolin began portraying the role of Marvel Comics super villain Thanos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, making his first appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). He appears in another mid-credits scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). He then went on to become the primary antagonist in Avengers: Infinity War (2018), before reprising the role in Avengers: Endgame (2019).

Brolin has been nominated for the Academy Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, Critics' Choice Movie Awards, Independent Spirit Awards, and an MTV award.

Machete (2010 film)

Machete is a 2010 American exploitation action film written and directed by Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis. Based on the eponymous character from the Spy Kids franchise, the film is an expansion of a fake trailer of the same name published as a part of the promotion of Rodriguez's and Quentin Tarantino's 2007 Grindhouse double-feature. Machete continues the B movie and exploitation style of Grindhouse, and includes some of the footage from the original.The film stars Danny Trejo reprising the title role from the Spy Kids series and the fake trailer, and co-stars Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Don Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Steven Seagal, Lindsay Lohan, Cheech Marin and Jeff Fahey. This was Trejo's first lead role as the character, and Seagal's first theatrically released film since 2002's Half Past Dead. Machete was released in the United States by 20th Century Fox and Rodriguez's company, Troublemaker Studios, on September 3, 2010. A sequel, Machete Kills, directed by Rodriguez alone, was released on October 11, 2013.

Machete (character)

Isador Cortez, also known as Machete, is a fictional character in the Spy Kids films, the Grindhouse fake trailer, and the Machete films. The character is played by Danny Trejo.

Machete Kills

Machete Kills is a 2013 American action exploitation film co-written and directed by Robert Rodriguez. It is a sequel to Machete, and the third film based on a Grindhouse fake trailer. Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, Tom Savini, Billy Blair, Electra and Elise Avellan, Felix Sabates, and Jessica Alba reprise their roles from the first film, and are joined by series newcomers Mel Gibson, Demián Bichir, Amber Heard, Sofía Vergara, Lady Gaga, Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr., Vanessa Hudgens, Alexa Vega, William Sadler, Marko Zaror, and Charlie Sheen (credited by his birth name of "Carlos Estévez"). The film follows the titular ex-federal (Trejo) as he is recruited by the U.S. President (Sheen) to stop an arms dealer (Gibson) and a revolutionary (Bichir).The film was released on October 11, 2013, failing to recoup its budget of $20 million and received mixed reviews. Critics cited the overuse of plot points, poorly produced CGI, and the 'out-of-place' science fiction elements.

Planet Terror

Planet Terror is a 2007 American independent zombie film directed by Robert Rodriguez and starring Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Josh Brolin, Marley Shelton, Naveen Andrews, Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, Stacy Ferguson, and Bruce Willis. It follows a group of people attempting to survive an onslaught of zombie-like creatures as they feud with a military unit. It was released theatrically in North America as part of a double feature with Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof under the title Grindhouse, to emulate the experience of viewing exploitation films in a "grindhouse" theater. In addition to directing the film, Rodriguez wrote the script, directed the cinematography, wrote the musical score, co-edited, and produced it.

Released on April 6, 2007, Grindhouse ticket sales were significantly below box office analysts expectations, despite mostly positive reviews. Outside the U.S and released separately, Planet Terror and Death Proof screened in extended versions. Two soundtracks were also released for the features and include music and audio snippets from the film. Planet Terror was released on DVD in the United States and Canada on October 23, 2007.

Robert Rodriguez

Robert Anthony Rodriguez (; born June 20, 1968) is an American filmmaker. He shoots, edits, produces, and scores many of his films in Mexico and his home state, Texas. Rodriguez directed the 1992 action film El Mariachi, which was a commercial success after grossing $2 million against a budget of $7,000. The film spawned two sequels known collectively as the Mexico Trilogy: Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico. He directed From Dusk Till Dawn in 1996 and developed its television adaptation series (2014–2016). Rodriguez co-directed the 2005 neo-noir crime thriller anthology Sin City (adapted from the graphic novel of the same name) and the 2014 sequel, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Rodriguez also directed the Spy Kids films, The Faculty, The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl, Planet Terror, Machete, and Alita: Battle Angel. He is a friend and frequent collaborator of filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, who founded the production company A Band Apart, of which Rodriguez was a member. In December 2013, Rodriguez launched his own cable television channel, El Rey.

Rose McGowan

Rose Arianna McGowan (born September 5, 1973) is an American actress, activist, writer, and model. After her film debut in a brief role in the comedy Encino Man (1992), McGowan achieved wider recognition for her performance in Gregg Araki's dark comedy The Doom Generation (1995), receiving an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Debut Performance. She had her breakthrough in the horror film Scream (1996) and subsequently headlined the films Going All the Way (1997), Devil in the Flesh (1998) and Jawbreaker (1999).

During the 2000s, McGowan became known to television audiences for her role as Paige Matthews in The WB supernatural drama series Charmed (2001–2006), and starred in Robert Rodriguez's and Quentin Tarantino's double-feature film Grindhouse (2007). She made her directorial debut with the short film Dawn (2014).

A feminist activist, McGowan has released a memoir, Brave, and starred in the four-part documentary series Citizen Rose, both in 2018. She has been on the cover of numerous magazines, including Seventeen, Interview, Maxim, GQ, Entertainment Weekly, and Rolling Stone. In 2017, Time recognized McGowan as one of the Silence Breakers, the magazine's Person of the Year, for speaking out about sexual assault and harassment.

Sexploitation film

A sexploitation film (or "sex-exploitation film") is a class of independently produced, low-budget feature film that is generally associated with the 1960s, and that serves largely as a vehicle for the exhibition of non-explicit sexual situations and gratuitous nudity. The genre is a subgenre of exploitation films. Sexploitation films were generally exhibited in urban grindhouse theatres, the precursor to the adult movie theaters of the 1970s and 1980s that featured hardcore pornography content. The term soft-core is often used to designate non-explicit sexploitation films after the general legalisation of hardcore content. Nudist films are often considered to be subgenres of the sex-exploitation genre as well. "Nudie" films and "Nudie-cuties" are associated genres.

By style
By theme
By movement
or period
By demographic groups
By format,
or production

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.