Words & Deeds

Deeds: Idaho theater lawsuit should spank stupid alcohol law

Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dorman in “Fifty Shades”: “Is that wine cooler on your breath?”
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dorman in “Fifty Shades”: “Is that wine cooler on your breath?”

It’s impossible not to laugh at the mental image of two male, undercover Idaho State Police officers conducting a movie-theater sting at “Fifty Shades of Grey” last February.

These Alcohol Beverage Control detectives seem to have made an admirable attempt to blend in seamlessly with the rest of the soccer moms. One ordered a Bacardi and Diet Coke. The other a Blue Moon beer.

But this operation was uniquely challenging. The unavoidable spectacle of a male couple — er, couple of males — settling into the VIP section at the naughtiest chick flick of 2015?

Please tell me that you didn’t share a love seat, too, dudes.

That’s actually one of the few details not documented in the Idaho State Police complaint against Village Cinema, a 15-screen multiplex at The Village at Meridian. The report, which also includes exhaustive rundowns of the sex and nudity that occurred on-screen, reads like a script from a buddy-cop comedy. It’s a meticulously compiled pile of legal blathering to support Idaho State Police’s threat to revoke Village Cinema’s liquor license.

It’s also a waste of money and resources. But we’re used to that in Idaho, right?

Our hats should be off to these determined public servants. Without Idaho State Police’s unflappable dedication to selectively enforcing antiquated law, we wouldn’t be on the cusp of eliminating one of the most idiotic state statutes ever adopted.

This past week, Meridian Cinemas, which owns Village Cinema, countered with a strong lawsuit against Idaho State Police. It argues that the right to show “Fifty Shades of Grey” — and other PG-13 and R-rated movies supposedly violating state statute — is protected by the First Amendment.

“It’s not about suing Idaho,” explains Jeremy Chou, Meridian Cinemas’ attorney. “It’s about showing movies. My clients have thought very carefully whether or not even to file. They just want to run their business and be left alone.”

Meridian Cinemas’ lawsuit maintains that Idaho Code 23-614 — which basically prohibits alcohol sales at any movie with sexually related material or nudity — is unconstitutional.

It’s too bad that Meridian Cinemas has to risk tens of thousands of dollars (let’s hope it stays under $100,000) to prove this fact. It’s also too bad that the state will be on the hook for legal fees and potentially for damages if Meridian Cinemas wins.

Which it will.

“It’s a very strange statute,” observes Shaakirrah R. Sanders, associate professor at the University of Idaho College of Law. “I would be surprised if it survives this challenge.”

Kudos to Meridian Cinemas for having the guts — and bank account — to spank the state.

Citing a 2000 California case involving erotic art at the Palm Springs Convention Center, Meridian Cinemas’ lawsuit points out that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which reviews federal cases from the Gem State, already has “clearly established that liquor regulations (cannot) be used to impose restrictions on speech that would otherwise be prohibited under the First Amendment.”


“The statute at issue in Idaho is the same exact statute that California had,” Chou says. “California statue is no longer on the books because of this case.”

If a federal judge sides with Meridian Cinemas, we can put this idiocy behind us forever. Finally. Variety and The Hollywood Reporter can stop penning embarrassing articles about Idaho movie theaters every few years. Our state’s Alcohol Beverage Control unit can focus on more crucial issues involving consenting Idaho adults. Like male stripper revues.

Speaking of frittering away taxpayers’ hard-earned money, whose decision is it to fight this lawsuit? Why resist when legal precedent appears established?

Good luck getting answers from the state of Idaho. Nevertheless, this case will be fun to watch play out.

“I will be curious how the state tries to justify the statute,” Sanders says. “Are they afraid if people are drinking and watching this sexual content, they’re going to turn around and rape the women in the back of the theater?”

Idaho law is full of mysteries. For instance, why is this statute seemingly so infatuated with the female body? Where’s the specificity about dudes’ packages?

“It doesn’t mention penises at all,” Sanders says with a laugh.

Obviously, this prudish law was crafted in a different era. Adult women not only get to vote now, they get to drink a glass of wine at the local movie theater.

When Meridian Cinemas wins this battle, joining the 21st century will be a good thing for Idaho theaters.

OK, if Meridian Cinemas wins.

“We’ll see,” Sanders says. “We’ll definitely see. Like I said, this is a very strange statute.”

Bowie tribute

It’s been a devastating month for rock ’n’ roll.

The past four weeks’ obituary pages have included Lemmy Kilmister, David Bowie and Glenn Frey, not to mention the lesser-known but intriguing Clarence “Blowfly” Reid, aka “the original dirty rapper.”

Depending on your musical tastes, each death impacted you differently. (Lemmy hit me hardest.) But there’s no denying Bowie’s massive, worldwide influence. So with help from local musicians, 94.9 FM The River will present the concert “Boise Does Bowie” at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28, at the Record Exchange.

Local Bowie tribute band Davey Jones and the Spiders from Bars will perform a set. Other Treasure Valley acts covering Bowie will include Sun Blood Stories, Marshall Poole, a.k.a. Belle, Thomas Paul and more.

It’s free. It’s all-ages. And Archie’s Place food truck will serve.

Tonight in ‘The Other Studio’

Join Tim Johnstone and me as we talk music news and spin tunes from Glenn Frey, Motorhead, David Bowie, Bob Mould, Mass Gothic and more.

“The Other Studio” airs at 8 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River.

In Scene Jan. 29

▪  “Kung Fu Panda 3” hits movie theaters. Yeah, baby!

▪  A preview of Opera Idaho’s “La Traviata.”

▪  A BBQ double header: Reviews of two local barbecue joints serving up daytime meals.

Michael Deeds: 208-377-6407, @michaeldeeds