1st Amendment Grounds Keeps Theater From Fines

Tod Hunter
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Guild Cinema's independent erotic film festival will not be fined for showing pornographic movies despite its violation of local zoning statutes, partially due to help from the American Civil Liberties Union and 1st Amendment arguments.

Late last week, city authorities threatened to fine the theater for every pornographic movie it showed as part of the festival, but representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union got involved on 1st Amendment grounds.

Molly Adler, co-owner of adult store Self Serve and one of the festival's organizers, said attendance was high all weekend, perhaps because of the publicity. She said the show of support drowned out the small number of complaints from neighbors.

"The point of the film festival was show people that there are alternatives to the sleaze," Adler told reporters. "I think we definitely accomplished that. People have come out and said, 'We want this.' "

The theater will receive a notice of violation, Albuquerque City Attorney Bob White said, but there will be no penalties. The city also is seeking a meeting with the Guild to avoid further problems.

Guild co-owner Peter Conheim told reporters that he was looking forward to meeting with city officials.

"My hope is that when we have this meeting ... we will be able to be granted a variance to do this kind of program, without a hassle, on an extremely rare basis," Conheim said. "I hope it would mean we could work on the language of the zoning code so it takes more accurately into account art; so it wouldn't include the lay person's definition of sleazy porn."