Police believe that a fire Saturday inside the X-rated Pussycat Theater, which caused $68,000 damage and forced the movie house to close for a day, was set. Besides the fire, vandals also slashed the movie screen at the 900-seat theater, police said. The walk-in theater in the 7000 block of Greenleaf Avenue in Whittier reopened Sunday night and there have been no new incidents reported.
The blaze was discovered in a second-floor projection room when a fire alarm went off about 3 a.m., police said. Investigators later found several incendiary devices in the room, where two $30,000 projectors were destroyed. There were no injuries and most of the damage was confined to the second floor.
"It appears that the fire was set by someone who didn't like the business," Whittier police Det. William Reiner said. "Nothing was stolen . . . they just wanted to deliver a message."
The city has been embroiled in a 10-year legal fight to shut down the theater, which operates seven days a week in the heart of the Uptown Village shopping district. City officials claim that theater owners, Walnut Properties Inc., are violating a city zoning ordinance that prohibits X-rated theaters from operating within 1,000 feet of churches, schools or homes. Walnut officials claim that the ordinance is unconstitutional because it violates their right to free speech.
A local church group last month picketed the theater in hopes of drawing attention to the issue. But Reiner said none of those who demonstrated are suspects in the recent theater fire.