Utah Backs Down From Deadpool Censorship Attempt

Threats of a continued lawsuit — and perhaps common sense — has led to a decision by the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to not cite local theater Breviews for serving alcohol during screenings of Deadpool or other R-rated or less movies.

Last month the Salt Lake City theater faced losing their liquor license as well as possible fines of up to $25,000 for violating an antiquated state law that prohibits the showing of simulated sex while serving alcohol. Called a “grave” offense, the DABC said that the combination of nudity and sexual themes in Deadpool coupled with the serving of alcohol violated the Utah Alcoholic Beverage Control Act.

This wasn’t the first time that the theater had been threatened by the DABC, and they were ready to fight the unconstitutionality of the law and the charges — something the DABC wasn’t quite prepared to handle it seems. When DABC tried to fine the theater for violation of the law, the theater countersued the state. As Salt Lake City-based KSL.com reported, the theater’s lawyer Rocky Anderson argued that the law is one that “is generally used to regulate alcohol at strip clubs.” Brewvies not only fought the citation, but is fighting to have the law as it relates to film screenings like Deadpool repealed. “That’s what’s given the DABC the notion that they can go around and censor and punish people for what otherwise is First Amendment protected,” Anderson told The Washington Times.

Along with arguing against the outdated nature of the law, the case quickly escalated into a First Amendment battle. Anderson noted that the state was using intimidation tactics and censorship attempts that violated his client’s free speech rights. “This isn’t only about Brewvies’ First Amendment rights,” Anderson told Chris Miller with CBS affiliate KUTV. “This is about the First Amendment rights of Brewvies customers, who obviously want to see these movies. Whether alcohol is involved or not, the First Amendment applies. Period.”

In response to the pressure exerted by Brewvies, the DABC has decided to temporarily suspend citing the theater, noting that they would not pursue legal action against the theater as long as they only serviced alcohol at films rated R and below.

Past attempts to cite the theater may been successful, but this time they stood their ground and with the support of the community, which helped the theater raise over $22,000 (including $5,000 from Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds) with an online fundraising campaign, they’re working to ensure the protection of their First Amendment rights.

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Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!