SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s highest court on Thursday tossed out an Albuquerque movie theater’s conviction for violating a zoning restriction on where adult films can be shown.
The state Supreme Court said in a 4-1 decision that the art-house theater wasn’t an “adult amusement establishment” under the city ordinance because it only occasionally showed erotic or pornographic films.
A company that does business as the Guild Cinema showed adult films only one weekend a year during a festival called “Pornotopia.” It was fined $500 for showing an X-rated film during a 2008 festival.
The court’s majority made its ruling without determining whether the theater’s free speech rights were violated by the restrictions on adult films.
The justices pointed out that the ordinance didn’t specify how many pornographic films a theater had to show before being considered an adult amusement business.
But the court said, “One weekend of erotic films a year does not an adult theater make.”
The justices said the city’s interpretation of the ordinance “would lead to absurd results.”
“For example, a professor at the University of New Mexico might screen a pornographic film during a course on human sexuality or the like; we cannot imagine that the screening would render the lecture hall an ‘adult amusement establishment,'” the court said in an opinion written by Justice Edward Chavez.
Chief Justice Petra Jimenez Maes dissented, saying she would uphold the theater’s conviction.
Maes said the majority ruling undermined the zoning power of cities and “appears to broaden the discretion of theaters, auditoriums, bars, restaurants and other commercial establishments to feature, present and promote” sexually oriented adult amusement activities.