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CULTURE DIGEST: Moviegoers reject ‘Bruno’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Moviegoers have rejected “Bruno,” a follow-up to the 2006 hit “Borat” starring “comic prankster” Sacha Baron Cohen, and some culture watchers say the film simply crossed too many social boundaries.

When Bruno pulled in $14.4 million on its opening day July 10, Universal Studios thought they had another hit on their hands, according to The Washington Times’ Sonny Bunch. But the earnings began to plummet the next day and fell about 70 percent each succeeding weekend — a larger-than-normal fall in the box office world.

“The public didn’t seem willing to play along, and bad word-of-mouth about the filthy flick sent its box office into a tailspin,” Bunch wrote.

While Hollywood churns out crass, off-the-wall comedies at a steady rate, Bruno was just too much. Ted Baehr of Movieguide noted that the film was cut to receive an R rating but still contained extensive pornographic, offensive content including full male and female nudity and various sexual acts.

“The movie also contains scenes mocking Jews, African Americans and Christian evangelicals,” Baehr said.

Because of the nature of the film, Baehr sent a letter asking local government officials throughout the nation to consider stopping the screening of Bruno. Supreme Court rulings on obscenity, he said, allow the government to ban such movies or at least restrict them to adults.

“Government has a duty to protect the community, especially vulnerable children and underage teenagers, from this kind of pornographic material,” Baehr said.

A Federal Trade Commission study in 2000 showed that nearly half of all movie theaters actually sell tickets for R-rated movies to children and underage teenagers without adult accompaniment.

The Times’ Bunch, though, said the public has rejected the movie without intervention from the government. The newspaper referred to a CinemaScore poll, which surveys audiences immediately after they’ve seen a film to get a sense of the reaction. Most movies score in the A or B range, Bunch said, but Bruno received a C.

Also, anti-Bruno sentiment abounded on Twitter even on opening night among those who had seen it. The Times quoted a tweet that said, “One of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. Has absolutely no cinematic or cultural value.” Another said, “Bruno was absolutely awful. Don’t see it, seriously.” The public, it seemed, was not buying the level of vulgarity sent its way. Those tweets may have impacted Bruno’s box office totals from the start. It made $14.4 million on opening night but plunged 39 percent the next day, a Saturday, and continued to fall.

“It looks as if Bruno finally has shown just how far Hollywood can push audiences and the boundaries of taste before moviegoers push back,” Bunch wrote.

PENNSYLVANIA COURT UPHOLDS PORNOGRAPHY BAN — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has upheld a state prison system ban on pornography in cells, despite a lawsuit from a prisoner who said the indecent material would not inhibit his recovery from a rape conviction.

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections in 2005 announced a ban on “materials in which the purpose is sexual arousal” as well as images of human nudity. Two years later, Shannon Brittain, a convicted rapist, filed a lawsuit claiming his constitutional rights had been violated.

Serving as his own attorney, Brittain submitted statements from six other inmates who agreed that pornography would not affect their rehabilitation, cause them to sexually harass anyone or create a hostile environment for prison workers, the Associated Press reported.

But the Supreme Court July 20 reversed a lower court ruling that had allowed Brittain’s case to continue, and the high court said Brittain failed to refute the department’s arguments in a meaningful way, AP said.

“Brittain’s submission of self-serving non-expert averments of fellow prisoners, which merely assert that they do not believe their rehabilitation and treatment are hindered by viewing pornography, were insufficient,” Justice Max Baer wrote for the court, which sided unanimously with the corrections department.

Diane Gramley of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania applauded the court’s decision.

“With the Supreme Court hearing it, I think that it will prove that the prisons have a right to do what’s best for the entire prison population and the prison workers in regulating, controlling what comes into the prison,” she said.

The corrections department has pointed to statistical evidence that assaults and sexual misconduct cases declined after the pornography ban was imposed.

“If you feed this kind of material to an inmate — especially one who is convicted of sexual assault, as this individual who brought the lawsuit — that type of material feeds their desire to act out upon the pictures and the stories that they read,” Gramley said.

CHURCH PAYS FAMILIES’ BILLS — During challenging economic times, First Baptist Church in Katy, Texas, has decided to give 5 percent ($150,000) of its undesignated receipts to a benevolence ministry aimed at helping people stay afloat when ends don’t quite meet.

FirstTouch, a financial assistance ministry, provides limited help with utilities, car payments, rent or mortgage payments and other needs.

The ministry is available to church members and to people who live in one of three zip codes surrounding the church. To qualify, people are asked to complete a form and meet in person with a church member who assesses need and eligibility. Church members are exempt from the interview and may request aid confidentially.

First Baptist Katy does not make direct payments to individuals and instead pays utility companies, landlords and other collectors on behalf of those in need. The church also does not cover groceries, medical expenses, clothing, telephone, cable or satellite television, gasoline or consumable items.

People who are not church members also must agree to host a church member in their homes for a 15-minute Gospel presentation.
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

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