Anyone who has ever lived in Los Angeles is familiar with Circus of Books. Located on Santa Monica Blvd, it is one of the town’s many iconic landmarks. The small mom-and-pop store has quite an interesting and surprising tale behind it. And that story is getting explored in a new original documentary on Netflix. The first trailer has been revealed for this upcoming April streaming release.
For 35-plus years, the gay porn shop Circus of Books gave Los Angeles’ LGBT+ community a space to socialize and celebrate themselves without judgment. Unbeknownst to many customers, the store was cultivated by owners Karen and Barry Mason, a straight, mainstream couple with three children who went to religious school and were unaware of their parents’ business.
The Masons long refused to disclose the nature of their business to friends or family. While maintaining the secret, they witnessed the dawn of the HIV/AIDS epidemic firsthand, losing a generation of treasured employees. Still, during that time, they never identified as activists, just everyday entrepreneurs catering to a market, until the Internet destroyed it.
Executive produced by Ryan Murphy, Circus of Books is the debut documentary from artist Rachel Mason, who finally asks the least radical people she knows, her parents, how they became America’s biggest distributors of gay porn, and why Karen reacted so negatively when her own son came out of the closet.
Circus of Books has been winning accolades and rave reviews after earlier screenings before heading to Netflix. Jude Dry of IndieWire calls it, “A rare delight, and a nearly perfect documentary. Mason keeps a thread of tension taut throughout, never losing sight of the contradictions between her parents’ work and their home life.”
Keith Uhlich of The Hollywood Reporter calls Circus of Books, “Very funny. Very Moving. The filmmaker does right by front-loading most of the snicker-worthy scenes. She knows that even the most open-minded among us need to get past a certain level of shock and incredulity to see Karen and Barry as the beautiful, and beautifully complicated, people they are.”
Tre’vell Anderson of OUT goes onto say that, “Circus of Books tells this complex and enthralling story, about the rise and fall of their family business, with a unique specificity. It’s Mason’s lack of distance from the subject – in fact, it’s that she, too, is part of the story – that makes the picture soar with intimacy.”
Ryan Murphy, the creative force behind American Horror Story and Glee among many other award-winning and popular shows, is the executive producer behind Circus of Books, which you’ll be able to stream in just a few short days. You can watch the trailer courtesy of The Netflix Youtube Channel.