Utah theater cited for showing 'Deadpool' suing over law use

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Posted: Apr 20, 2016 1:44 PM
Utah theater cited for showing 'Deadpool' suing over law use

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Salt Lake City theater is suing the state for using an obscenity law to threaten its liquor license for serving drinks during a screening of "Deadpool."

Brewvies argued in court documents filed Tuesday that the Utah law unconstitutionally uses liquor rules to restrict the theater's free speech rights. The theater argued that the film is not considered obscene under state or federal obscenity laws.

Rocky Anderson, a lawyer for Brewvies, says other Utah theaters showed the film but weren't cited because they don't serve liquor.

Utah's alcohol control department filed the complaint against Brewvies after undercover officers attended a screening of Marvel's R-rated antihero film "Deadpool" in February. The film stars Ryan Reynolds as the foul-mouthed superhero.

Utah's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control scheduled a meeting in May to discuss or possibly settle the complaint before further disciplinary action, which could include thousands in fines and the suspension or revocation of the theater's license.

The agency's Vickie Ashby declined to comment on the lawsuit or complaint.

Investigators cited a state obscenity law that is generally used to regulate alcohol and nudity at strip clubs, which are required to have dancers wearing G-strings and pasties if the club serves liquor.

The law also bans the showing of any film with sex acts or simulated sex acts, full-frontal nudity or the "caressing" of breasts or buttocks. It only applies to businesses with liquor licenses.

The undercover agents said "Deadpool" violated Utah law by showing simulated sex, including a scene in the film's credits that the agents wrote included a cartoon depicting an implied sex act on a unicorn.

Brewvies, which has been open since 1997, only allows people 21 and older to attend movies and serves food and liquor to customers.

In court documents, Anderson said Brewvies "was coerced and intimidated" by the liquor board in 2011 to paying a $1,627 fine when it was cited under the same law for showing "The Hangover Part II."

Utah's law is similar to an Idaho measure that lawmakers repealed this year when a theater sued after its liquor license was threatened for showing "Fifty Shades of Grey" while serving alcohol.

The Brewvies lawsuit was filed on the same day that Utah held a ceremonial signing of a resolution declaring pornography to be a public health crisis.

Republican Gov. Gary Herbert was asked about the Brewvies citation at the Tuesday event and said they were different issues. He said he'll allow the investigation to play out. "If it's a violation of law, then it's a violation of law," Herbert said.

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Associated Press writer Brady McCombs contributed to this report. Follow Michelle L. Price at https://twitter.com/michellelprice