'Pirates II' Screening at University of Maryland Canceled

Apr 2, 2009 10:45 AM PST
BALTIMORE — A scheduled screening of Digital Playground's "Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge" at the University of Maryland has been canceled after state lawmakers threatened to cut funding to the university if it went on as planned.

"Pirates II" has been screened for more than 2,000 students on campuses nationwide.

University President C.D. Mote Jr. decided to cancel the screening, which had been approved by a student programming committee, after a debate this morning in the state Senate.

"That's really not what Maryland residents send their young students to college campus for, to view pornography," Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said. He acknowledged the legislature shouldn't get involved in censoring movies but also said the state General Assembly is not going to support screening hardcore pornographic movies on a state campus paid for by taxpayer dollars.

After another senator suggested amending the state's annual budget to deny any funding to a higher education institution that allows a public screening of a film marketed as a XXX-rated adult film — unless it is part of an official academic course — Miller indicated he would vote for that amendment, which would cost the university tens of millions of dollars in state funding.

The debate was postponed several times as groups of school children entered the gallery on field trips to the state House.

As of Wednesday, the student union at Maryland had not received any complaints about the screening, but reporters found that many on campus were unaware that it had been scheduled. Digital Playground provided the film to the university for free, so no student fees or state money was used to bring it to campus.

The student union had planned to have Planned Parenthood give a pre-screening presentation on safe sex practices before the film. Planned Parenthood, while saying it does not endorse pornography, had accepted the invitation as a way to educate students.

Four years ago, the university's student union showed "Deep Throat," said Lisa Cunningham, program coordinator for the union's Hoff Theater.

"We thought this would be something fun for the students to do, especially since we're getting close to the end of the semester," Cunningham said. "We're a college movie theater and we thought it would bring out the students."

Digital Playground publicist Christopher told XBIZ that they were "shocked."

"Never in a million years did we think the government would step in on something like this. Some college administrations don't want to promote pornography, but they take a hands-off attitude because they understand it's the students' right to watch it," Christopher said. "But for a state government to say 'We're not going to give you money' — upwards of $10 million — 'if you show this,' it's amazing that they care so much. With all the problems that are going on right now, why are they giving this their attention?

"The screening at the University of Maryland is giving 500 students an opportunity to engage in an educational, academic discourse on sexuality and gender roles in today's society — and have a fun time," Christopher said. "The university screenings give students a chance to gather and talk about what people usually don't talk about in large groups: Sex.

"It's a shame that the government felt they had to stifle the 1st Amendment rights of the students."

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