|On Independence Day in 1969,
brothers Jim and Artie Mitchell of Antioch opened the 200-seat Mitchell
Brothers O'Farrell Theatre at the corner of Polk and O'Farrell Streets.
A few weeks later, the SFPD raided the place, foreshadowing decades of
legal problems for the porn kings, including the 1991 murder of Artie by
The Mitchells got lucky in 1971 when Marilyn Chambers, the star of their adult feature "Behind the Green Door," also appeared as a model on boxes of Ivory Snow soap. The publicity created a multi-million dollar success out of "Green Door" and ensconced the Mitchells in the pantheon of adult entertainment alongside figures like Larry Flynt and Hugh Hefner. In 1975 their adult theatre chain had expanded to 11 locations. Lawsuits brought by communities to keep them out, as well as police raids and even copyright disputes, kept the Mitchells in court the entire time their porn empire grew. In 1985, Mitchell veteran Chambers was arrested for prostitution at the theatre. The following year, the Mitchells responded to the rising AIDS epidemic by releasing a sequel to "Behind the Green Door" starring Missy Manners in the first safe sex adult film.
On February 27, 1991, Jim shot his brother to death in Artie Mitchell's Corte Madera home. Lawyers for the defense claimed that the shooting was an accident rising out of Jim's attempt to get Artie off of drugs and alcohol, the result of "an intervention gone awry." Prosecutors noted, however, that Jim had parked his car away from the house, kicked the door down, then shot Artie three times, including one bullet to the brain. Jim Mitchell, inmate J38838, served only 3 years for killing his brother before being released from San Quentin prison in 1997. The Mitchells' rise as porn czars and the murder of Artie Mitchell are chronicled in the 2000 cable movie Rated X starring brothers Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez.
Copyright 2001 Hank Donat