News » Unda' the Rotunda

Statehouse Bill Would Unshackle Idaho Movie Theaters' Liquor Licenses from R-Rated Films

by

When an Idaho movie theater screened  Fifty Shades of Grey, Idaho State Police threatened to pull the theater's liquor license. - UNIVERSAL PICTURES / FOCUS FEATURES
  • Universal Pictures / Focus Features
  • When an Idaho movie theater screened Fifty Shades of Grey, Idaho State Police threatened to pull the theater's liquor license.
The debate swirling around alcohol being served at cinemas screening adult-themed movies has made its way to the Idaho Statehouse.

A lawsuit filed in January by Meridian Cinemas against Idaho State Police alleges ISP conducted a particular form of censorship by threatening to pull liquor licenses from theaters when certain R-rated films are screened.

Idaho Code 23-614 shackles beer and wine licenses at select Idaho movie theaters—including The Flicks and The Village Cinema—to Idaho's obscenity laws. According to Idaho Code, obscenity might be defined as "acts or simulated acts of sexual intercourse, masturbation, sodomy, bestiality, oral copulation and flagellation," and "any person being touched, caressed or fondled on the breast, buttocks, anus or genitals." 

However, at least one constitutional scholar says that section of Idaho code may run afoul of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

 "It seems to me that the Idaho statute has the effect of chilling expression protected by the U.S. Constitution," Shaakirrah Sanders, associate professor of law at the University of Idaho told Boise Weekly. "There's a huge reason why we have the First Amendment. It is supposed to protect you from chilling speech or censorship."

Idaho House Bill 544 would untie Idaho movie theaters' alcoholic beverage licenses from films depicting certain sex acts. Instead, it would specifically address the films and not whether beer or wine was being sold or consumed.

Members of the Idaho House State Affairs Committee agreed on Friday to give HB544 a full public hearing, which should occur in the next week or two.