SALT LAKE CITY (CN) – Utah officials threatened to pull a movie theater’s liquor license for showing the superhero flick “Deadpool,” which featured naughty unicorns and other “obscene” content, the Cinema Pub claims in court.
Cinema Pub dba Brewvies sued the 10 members of the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission (DABC) on Tuesday in Federal Court.
Brewvies, launched in 1997, shows new releases and indie films and allows 21-and-older patrons to order a host of local craft beer, spirits and pub fare.
The downtown cinema pub is less than 2 miles from the world headquarters of the Mormon Church.
“Deadpool,” released Feb. 12, is based on a Marvel Comics character and became the highest-grossing R-rated film worldwide within two months of its release.
According to an alcohol compliance report, two Department of Public Safety agents viewed an evening screening of “Deadpool” at Brewvies on Feb. 26.
The undercover officers, who ordered a single Bud Light, wrote, “The main character (male) in the film is shown numerous times engaging in acts or simulated acts of sexual intercourse with the female counterpart during a holiday themed sex-montage.”
The lead, the officers added, is separately shown “engaging in masturbation or simulated masturbation using a stuffed unicorn toy.”
During the final credits, “a drawing of the main character is shown ‘as he rides on the back of a unicorn, he rubs its horn briefly until the horn shoots out rainbows (simulating orgasm).’ The tail of the unicorn raises slowly as he rubs the horn simulating arousal until the horn shoots out the rainbows,” the report states.
(It is unclear, from the Narrative in the Crime Report why the agent used interior quotes, or what he is quoting.)
Utah law prohibits restricts theaters from showing movies with sex acts while also serving alcoholic beverages.
Brewvies, the officers said, violated Utah Code § 32B-1-504 (7) (a) and (d) “by showing a depiction of (1) an act or simulated act of sodomy, bestiality, or oral copulation and (2) a scene wherein a person displayed his or her genitals.”
Brewvies faces a 10-day license suspension up to revocation of its club license and fines of $1,000 to $25,000, plus administrative hearing costs.
The treatment is nothing new.
The DABC in 2011 investigated Brewvies for showing “The Hangover Part II,” which showed “an act or simulated act of sodomy, bestiality, or oral copulation and a person displaying their genitals.”
Brewvies says it was “coerced and intimidated by legal counsel for the DABC,” and paid a $1,627 fine for that violation.
In 2015, the DABC warned Brewvies not to show the films “Magic Mike” and “Ted 2,” due to “the unconstitutional Utah statute.”
Brewvies sent a letter to the DABC seeking an agreement that would allow it to show PG-13 and R-rated movies “without fear of prosecution or penalties.”
The agency responded that Brewvies should exercise “the option of being a motion picture theater without alcohol service,” or ask the Legislature to change the law.
Brewvies says that “Deadpool” is not obscene and that “Taken as a whole, the film has serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.”
(The language resembles that in the 1933 case The United States vs. One Book Called Ulysses, in which a federal judge ruled that James Joyce’s masterpiece, which had been banned, was not obscene. The ruling was upheld in the Second Circuit.)
“Defendants’ actions have interfered with Brewvies’ freedom of speech and expression and threaten to continue to cause serious, perhaps devastating, damage to Brewvies in the form of unconstitutional fines and the destruction of its business based on the non-obscene content of films Brewvies chooses to show,” the lawsuit states.
The DABC and Brewvies’ management declined comment.
Representatives at Marvel Entertainment and 20th Century Fox, which produced “Deadpool,” did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
The plaintiffs seek an injunction for violation of the First Amendment,
They are represented by Rocky Anderson, a former Salt Lake City mayor, with Lewis Black.
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