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Paris Adult Theatre I v. Slaton

    Citation. 413 U.S. 49, 93 S. Ct. 2628, 37 L. Ed. 2d 446, 1973 U.S. 19.

    Brief Fact Summary. The Petitioners are two Atlanta movie theatres and their owners and managers (Petitioners), operating in the style of “adult” theatres. The theatres have a conventional, inoffensive entrance, without any pictures, but with signs indicating that the theatres exhibit “Atlanta’s Finest Mature Feature Films.” On the door is a sign saying “Adult Theatre-You must be 21 and able to prove it. If viewing nude body offends you, Please Do Not Enter.”

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) categorically disapproves of the theory that obscene, pornographic films acquire constitutional immunity from state regulation simply because they are exhibited for consenting adults only.


    Facts. The local state district attorney filed civil complaints alleging that the Petitioners were exhibiting to the public for paid admission, two allegedly obscene films, “Magic Mirror” and “It All Comes Out in the End,” which depict scenes of simulated fellatio, cunnilingus and group intercourse. The Respondent, Slaton’s (Respondent) complaints demanded that the two films be declared obscene and that the Petitioners be enjoined from showing the films. The Georgia Supreme Court held that the exhibition of the films should be enjoined.

    Issue. Can the material shown inside the Petitioners’ theatres be constitutionally protection from state sanction because they are advertised as exhibited for consenting adults only?

    Held. There are legitimate state interests at stake in stemming the tide of commercialized obscenity, even assuming it is feasible to enforce effective safeguards against exposure to juveniles and to other passersby.

    Dissent. The vagueness of the standards in the area of obscenity create a number of problems including a lack of fair notice, a chill on protected expression and stress on the judiciary. Further, the judiciary should possibly reduce its role in the determination of obscenity and place this burden in the hands of juries.

    Discussion. The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) noted that there are interests other than those of the advocates involved in reaching the majority decision. The Supreme Court found that these factors include the interest of the public in the quality of life and the total community environment, the tone of commerce in the great city centers, and, possibly, the public safety itself. In reaching this decision, the Supreme Court seemingly announces a decision that the advertising of any adult material can be subject to state attack, no matter the steps taken to prevent the material from reaching minors and others who do not wish to partake in it.


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