LOS ANGELES -- Invoking its previous ban on X-rated movies, an Alabama newspaper became the nation's first to reject advertising for the new NC-17 adults-only film "Henry & June."
The Birmingham News, an afternoon newspaper with a circulation of 180,000, rejected ads for the Universal Pictures release and said it would refuse ad copy for all subsequent NC-17 films.
"We feel like the NC-17 is not that far removed from X, based on what we're familiar with," said newspaper marketing director Tom Adams.
Universal spokesman Allan Sutton said the Alabama newspaper was the first and only newspaper so far to ban NC-17 ads.
Jack Valenti, Motion Picture Association of America president, condemned the newspaper's blanket prohibition on NC-17 films.
"If a newspaper wants to live in the Stone Age, I can't do anything about it," Valenti said.
Birmingham News Publisher Victor Hansen said: "We just don't want it."
The sexually explicit "Henry & June," about the affairs of Anais Nin with writer Henry Miller and his wife, opened to sellout audiences in its first weekend of limited release. It took in $868,000 in 76 theaters for a robust $11,427 per-screen average.
The movie was the first released under the MPAA's new rating, which excludes anyone under 17 and replaces the X rating.
In an editorial, the Birmingham News said "smut was still smut" and the NC-17 rating could lead to more violent or erotic fare, "drawing audiences that might have been turned off by the stigma of an X rating."
Last week in Dedham, Mass., the Showcase Cinema canceled a showing of "Henry & June" after two town selectmen claimed the NC-17 rating essentially meant the film was X-rated.
"These are isolated cases in my judgment," said Valenti. "I'm not concerned. I just think in time, sensibility and sanity will prevail, and the First Amendment will live, hallelujah!"