Early this year, Rebecca Denk--general manager for Seattle's sex-toy store Toys in Babeland--tried to rent the Egyptian theater for a mid-May showing of a film called Women Watch Porn.

"It's the porn that women like to watch. There's a little bit of everything in this show," says filmmaker Laura Weide. She compiled clips from 35 films--it's an hour and a half of scenes such as a female stripper masturbating to ejaculation on top of a car, a "Harlequin romance"-style scene with a Fabio look-alike, and a lesbian argument that leads to a make-out session, Weide says.

The Egyptian would be perfect for the film, Denk thought. Toys in Babeland sponsored a similar film at the Egyptian last year, to a sold-out audience. However, the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) shows movies at the Egyptian in late May, so Denk had to be careful to schedule around that.

"It sounded like everything was going well. We were very careful to avoid conflict with SIFF, and were flexible about the dates," she says. "I had thought this was a sure thing--we talked price, and they said they would provide everything."

When she called back in March to schedule a specific date, though, the Egyptian's management told her no. It was the first of many rejections for Women Watch Porn.

The Egyptian, the Harvard Exit, the Broadway Performance Hall, the Showbox, and the King Cat Theater all denied Denk's request to rent a venue for Women Watch Porn. Some venues were forthright in telling her it was because of the sexual content, while others had problems showing the film because of liquor license rules or scheduling conflicts.

Denk eventually found a venue for May 31, but it's a tiny space in a facility usually reserved for literary events--it's not even equipped for film. More important, her search took over three months, which is an indictment against "liberal and artsy" Seattle.

"I have a whole list of places that told me no," Denk says. "I was never sure if it was a question about the content of the film, or scheduling." She doesn't recall whether the Egyptian gave her a specific reason.

But Denk is skeptical that it's a scheduling issue--she hoped to screen the Toys in Babeland film earlier in May, which didn't seem to be a problem for the Egyptian when she first asked.

Nick Collecchi, head of Seattle marketing for Landmark Theatres, which owns the Egyptian and Harvard Exit, says Women Watch Porn faced scheduling conflicts at his theaters. SIFF runs from May 23 until mid-June at both venues.

"The timing didn't work," Collecchi says. "It was rubbing right up against the film festival."

Collecchi says Landmark's decision had nothing to do with the film's content. "We're friends of the First Amendment," he says. Moreover, he says, both theaters host the Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and SIFF, which often showcase works "that would be questionable in the eyes of many."

He's right--last year, as part of the Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, the Egyptian screened Weide's other porn compilation, Lesbian Porn 101.

"[Lesbian Porn 101] was great and it sold out the house," says Justine Barda, director of the Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. This year, it's a different story at the Egyptian.

With the Egyptian and Harvard Exit crossed off the list, Denk called the Broadway Performance Hall, next to Seattle Central Community College (SCCC) on Capitol Hill.

The 295-person-capacity hall is owned by SCCC, but managed by a private group, which told Denk the film's "content was marginal in appropriateness for their venue."

Meg Stevenson, managing director of the Performance Hall, was out of town and unavailable for comment. Her partner, Darrell Jamieson, did not return calls.

Denk headed downtown to the Showbox, on First Avenue, which could hold an audience of 1,000. Chad Queirolo, a booker at the Showbox, was happy to show Woman Watch Porn, he says. But he and Denk ran into a problem with the Showbox's liquor license.

Gigi Venk, spokesperson for the Liquor Control Board, says there is a rule prohibiting pornographic material in an establishment with a liquor license.

"We have not seen [the film], so we cannot determine if it's pornography. It's the licensee's discretion, as they would be held liable," Venk says. In other words, the owners of the Showbox could show Women Watch Porn at their own risk--but they might get in trouble.

Denk heard something similar at the King Cat Theater. "We thought that maybe it wasn't the type of show to do," says Chris Hinderaker, booker and manager of the King Cat Theater on Sixth and Blanchard. But ultimately, content wasn't the reason Women Watch Porn couldn't happen at the King Cat--it turned out that the club would be closed due to renovations from mid-May until early June. "The bottom line is we're shut down," Hinderaker says.

Finally, Denk tried Hugo House, a literary venue on Capitol Hill--Jeb Lewis, the facilities manager, was more than happy to rent the facility to Toys in Babeland for Women Watch Porn.

"Unfortunately, they aren't a film venue," Denk says. "We had to rent all the equipment, and it's getting a little costly."

Hugo House is also tiny: The theater has 87 fixed seats, and Hugo House will squeeze in more chairs so 150 can see the film. Weide--who's also screening the film in New York, where there was no trouble finding a venue--will show the film twice to accommodate more people.

"It was a disappointment," Weide says about the venues that declined to show her film. "I'm concerned that not everyone who wants to see it will be able to see it."

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