The state of Utah has made their latest move in an ongoing lawsuit with Brewvies Cinema Pub over their showing of Deadpool in a licensed establishment. The lawsuit, which hinges on a provision that a liquor licensee cannot show sexually-explicit images, full nudity, or certain sex acts, has been carrying on since April, 2016, when Brewvies was threatened with the revocation of their liquor license.
Now, according to a report from Fox 13, the state of Utah has filed for a complete dismissal of Brewvies’ lawsuit challenging the law on First Amendment grounds, accusing the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission of “censorship.”
The state of Utah maintains that it has “the authority to protect public health, welfare and morals of the community” and that it is “commonly known” that combining alchohol and sexual content has “negative secondary effects,” including, according to Utah Assistant Attorney General Greg Soderberg, “sexual aggression and sexual violence, increased drinking, and reported and unreported crime.”
“The Statute’s purpose and effect are to reduce these adverse secondary effects that result from combining alcohol and sexually explicit images.”
Critics of the lawsuit have questioned where Utah is getting this idea; Soderberg cites “judicial opinions and alcohol experts,” but does not actually offer any specifics. The Utah Attorney General’s Office has brought in an “expert witness,” one William George III, a psychology professor, but Cinemapub attorney Rocky Anderson has argued that George’s testimony is fatally-biased based on his “long history of performing laboratory experiments involving the consumption of alcohol while viewing pornographic materials” without testing his theories in the field or comparing them to results from non-pornographic material (i.e., Deadpool.)
“Dr. George has never been to Brewvies, never performed any studies relating to alcohol outside of a laboratory setting, never performed any studies, in the field or in the laboratory, of combining alcohol with viewing mainstream R-rated movies, and never performed any studies, in the field or in the laboratory, relating to any possible secondary effects from watching mainstream movies in traditional theaters that sell alcohol, and has never provided expert testimony outside the context of statutes addressing sexually oriented businesses.
“Dr. George opines that watching Deadpool ‘can’ drive the viewer to drink more, but not that it ‘will’ do so. Dr. George only ‘speculates’ that watching Deadpool ‘can’ drive people to be more sexually aggressive, but not that it ‘will’ do so.”
As CinemaBlend notes, this isn’t the first time that Brewvies has been fined for showing R-rated material. They were fined $1,627 for showing The Hangover Part II, and have had their liquor license threatened over showings of Ted 2, Magic Mike XXL, and others.
Meanwhile, Anderson notes that the law is so vaguely-worded that they could be fined for displaying Michelangelo’s David or Botticelli’s The Birth Of Venus. He also notes that it could be interpreted to ban showing most sports as “obscene” due to provisions banning the physical touching of genitals which don’t elaborate on whether the participants must be nude.
Soderberg responded that it is “commonly known” that combining alcohol and sexual imagery is an “explosive combination,” and argued that the state is not suppressing freedom of expression, simply engaging in lawful alcohol regulation. He also noted that the DABC is not actually taking any action against Brewvies, due to the minor nature of the violation, and that there is no violation of constitutional rights involved; Deadpool, he notes, was shown uncensored in theaters across the state.
“Plaintiff does not have a constitutional right to serve beer while showing movies.”
But Brewvies and their parent company, Cinemapub, want the law struck down, are tired of dancing around Utah’s restrictive alcohol and “morality” regulations and are convinced that it is unconstitutional. Anderson put it a little more emphatically.
“They’re really saying Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’ is going to make people go out and be sexually aggressive? These people need to get out.”
[Featured Image by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images]