Pornotopia Postponed Due to Albuquerque Zoning Restrictions

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—History repeats itself in Albuquerque as Pornotopia once again battles the city for a venue in which to hold its annual erotic film festival. This year, however, the city fathers have inched closer to their desired ends not to have the festival take place at all. 

Pornotopia, which is scheduled for Nov. 5-7, is no longer welcome at its previous home, the Guild Theater in Nob Hill. The site is not zoned for adult entertainment, the organizers have been told. Similar zoning issues threatened the festival during its inaugural year in 2007, until the ACLU intervened. Similar saber-rattling kept its doors open in 2008 and 2009, but this year the tide of reactionary conservatism sweeping the nation seems to have turned against the harmless little festival.

Still, its ultimate status remains unclear despite a notice on the Pornotopia website that reads, “We regret to announce that this year’s celebration of erotic film is being postponed indefinitely. The City of Albuquerque's highly restrictive zoning regulations have effectively banned the festival from all potential venues, despite all efforts by the planning committee to find a suitable location within city limits.

“We are not giving up on finding a home for Pornotopia 2010 and a home for free speech. We will not let these erotic films be censored.”

Pornotopia Co-Director Molly Adler has intimated that a “censored” version of the show may take place next month at the Sunshine Theater, featuring comedy sketches, burlesque and more. In the meantime, the organizers will be looking for a venue outside city limits at which to hold the real Pornotopia.

"No one gets fully naked," Adler said of the revised version, but there will be "much dirty language. Heck, if we have some free speech, let's use it."

An added irony is that Pornotopia is not a "porn" film festival, but an erotic film festival. Supporters say screened films depict "beautiful" sex, not  traditional porn, and that the festival is meant to be educational and not crassly prurient. The distinction is apparently lost on the city fathers.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, “Matthew Conrad, Albuquerque's code-enforcement manager, said the city is investigating whether the planned Sunshine Theater event is legal.”

There also is a press conference planned for this Saturday at the Guild Cinema on Central Avenue, where a planned screening of The People vs. Larry Flynt also is scheduled for immediately after the 2 pm conference, and on Sunday.

Clearly incensed that films protected by the First Amendment cannot be screened in Albuquerque theaters not located in industrial zones—as if!—Adler commented Friday, “We’re talking about a free-speech issue. How can you actually exercise your free speech if there's no where in town that we can legally have the festival?”

Maybe they should have planned a tea party instead.