Demolition has begun on a small strip shopping center in the 300 block of Rock Street to make way for a new hotel and several have asked that I noted the modest center’s historic value.

An adult cinema in that center at 310 Rock, operated by Beaver Amusement Corporation, held the first public showing in Arkansas of the landmark porn film “Deep Throat” in 1973.  Many upright citizens proudly took seats in the packed house for the one-month run and remember the day, if not necessarily fondly, vividly.

The Encyclopedia of Arkansas relates the event in the context of a history the Little Rock Censor Board, which became a relic itself not long after the showing.

As the social climate continued to change, so did the tone and graphic nature of films, and the mainstream popularity of sexually explicit adult movies distressed the censor board. Despite its waning influence, lack of support from city leaders, and legal challenges, the board clung to a semblance of authority, resulting in the banning of the X-rated movie Deep Throat (1972). The showing of the movie at the Adult Cinema in Little Rock in 1973 immediately resulted in the arrest of the theater’s employees. The resulting trial ended with guilty verdicts for the violation of Arkansas’s obscenity statute. Although the censor board was concerned by these movies, its involvement in the trials was non-existent, and the large numbers of people attending the movie’s showings provided evidence that the board’s authority was tenuous. After the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Miller v. California (1973) decision, which established stricter criteria for state regulation of obscene material, city officials refused to clarify the censor board’s authority. As a result, Chair William Apple Jr. stopped calling meetings, and new members were not appointed. In 1975, Apple requested that the board be revived, but the city attorney refused, thus ending the Little Rock Censor Board.

The Pinnacle Hotel Group is building a 140-room Hilton Garden Inn on the site.

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