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Edwards Chain, Cinecom at Odds Over ‘Last Exit’ : Movies: Distributor regards refusal to screen film at upscale Lido Cinema as ‘some form of ad hoc censorship.’

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Edwards Cinema chain and the film distributor Cinecom were telling different stories Tuesday about Edwards’ decision not to open the movie “Last Exit to Brooklyn” at the chain’s Lido Cinema in Newport Beach on Friday.

Richard Abramowitz, senior vice president for marketing and sales for Cinecom, said he was informed by an Edwards executive Monday that the movie would not play at the Lido, as originally scheduled, because of its content and that he regarded the decision a “some form of ad hoc censorship.”

Based on Hubert Selby Jr.'s novel depicting the bleak and violent lives of the entrenched working class of Brooklyn in the early 1950s, “Last Exit to Brooklyn” received an “R” rating from the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

Jim Edwards, chairman of the chain, said, “We didn’t pull the picture. We just felt that the Lido was not the theater for it. The Lido plays to a general audience--kids, families and so on.”

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Edwards said the original booking at the Lido, in an upscale Newport Beach neighborhood, was mistakenly made by someone else in his company. “We wanted to transfer the picture to another venue,” Edwards said.

As an alternative, the chain offered the Bristol theater in suburban south Santa Ana, which Cinecom deemed inappropriate. “This is not an exploitation film, and that was the implication,” Abramowitz said of his discussion with Edwards’ booking executive Pat Nataro. “We believe the Lido plays to a more review-responsive audience, the type of audience we expect will want to see this film. It’s a serious film.”

Cinecom turned down the Bristol venue and early Tuesday was able to reschedule the film at another Orange County theater, the AMC Main Place in Santa Ana. The film is also set to open at four other theaters in Southern California beginning Friday.

Abramowitz expressed surprise and anger at the movie chain’s decision and pointed to the movie’s “R” rating. “I’m confused by this,” Abramowitz said, speaking from his office in New York, where the film opens today. “I thought the MPAA rating was respected by exhibitors. If the MPAA guidelines are not going to be adhered to, then what’s the point of having that system? The guidelines exist for the benefit of the exhibitors as well as for for the public.”

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Released last year in Europe, “Last Exit to Brooklyn” has already attracted some serious attention from critics in America. The film deals in part with homosexuality, physical brutality and prostitution, but its treatment of these subjects has not been generally regarded by the American film press as exploitive or lascivious.

The film stars Jennifer Jason Leigh as a Brooklyn waterfront prostitute. Also appearing are Jerry Orbach as a union boss, Stephen Lang as a sexually tormented steel worker and Burt Young as the crude, violent patriarch of a Brooklyn family.

“Anyone who finds this film arousing probably should seek help,” Abramowitz said.

Abramowitz said there had been no objections raised to the film by movie exhibitors in Los Angeles or in New York.

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The Edwards chain is currently showing the unrated, sexually explicit film, “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover,” at its Huntington Theater in Huntington Beach.

Jim Edwards said he had not seen “Last Exit to Brooklyn” before making his decision not to let it open at the Lido. “I don’t see any pictures before we open them,” Edwards said. “I’d like to play the picture. I understand it’s a very fine picture.”


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