Utah Theater Chain Bans 'Zack and Miri Make a Porno'

Bob Preston
SALT LAKE CITY — A theater chain in Utah has banned the upcoming sex comedy "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" from its screens.

Megaplex Theaters is the chain in question, and its general manager, Cal Gunderson, said that his company's decision hinged on the almost NC-17 rating given to Kevin Smith's new movie.

"We feel it's very close to an NC-17 with its graphic nudity and graphic sex," he told the New York Post.

Smith is best known for his black-and-white ode to minimum-wage work, "Clerks," a moviemaking experience that inspired him to make "Zack and Miri." Porn's often low-rent production standards reminded him of his time making "Clerks," so he enlisted former adult stars Traci Lords and Katie Morgan to appear in the movie.

But despite the lighthearted script, the MPAA initially gave it an NC-17 rating for its sexual content. Smith later appealed and persuaded them to lower the rating to a more marketable R.

That wasn't good enough for Megaplex Theaters, though, which has locations in Salt Lake City, Ogden, Lehi, Sandy and South Jordan. Fortunately for Smith, Megaplex only has five theaters total, a number that will hardly dent the 2,800-screen tally of screens his movie will appear on.

Online pundits and Utah residents have noted the chain's erratic record for enforcing its moral standards. "Zack and Miri" has garnered some salacious attention because of its full-frontal male and female nudity, but Megaplex booked the comedy "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," which showed star Jason Segel completely naked.

Megaplex also has a pattern of rejecting movies based on their sexual content but allowing movies that include graphic violence. For example, on the heels of the "Zack and Miri" rejection, Megaplex is showing the latest installment in the gory "Saw" franchise.

In 2006, the chain rejected "Brokeback Mountain" but wound up accepting both movies in the "Hostel" series, which feature beheadings, genital mutilation, eye-gouging and a woman who bathes in the blood of a freshly slain virgin.

Online pundits have reacted negatively to the move.

"This just baffles the hell out of me," said Dr. Venkman, a writer for GeekTyrant.com. "Some people's priorities are really screwed up, and I know for a fact that Utah has a lot of hypocrites."

An informal survey of adult industry professionals returned similar responses. Lisa Ann, no stranger to sex comedies or parodies herself, called the move "ridiculous," while 3ob.com President Jeff Random hit on a common theme.

"On this topic, my reaction is something along the lines of 'typical,'" he told XBIZ.

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