Students at the University of Maryland will have to entertain themselves this weekend by doing something other than watching the most expensive pornographic movie ever made.
Following colleges across the country that have screened the big-busted, big-budget adult film "Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge," the College Park-based school's student union planned to show the movie Saturday, but caved in Thursday to pressure from a local lawmaker who threatened to pull state funding from the school's budget.
"I am pleased to know that the university did the right thing and canceled this movie," said Maryland state Sen. Andy Harris. "Students can't light up a cigarette in the student union but can watch a hardcore XXX porn film. Occasional viewing of porn is more dangerous than occasionally lighting up a cigarette. If the movie is being shown for educational reasons, someone should be presenting the dangers too. Porn breaks up lives."
The university's decision to cancel the screening spotlights a debate -- held on several campuses where the film has been screened -- over whether colleges should be used to advertise pornography, the role of porn in the exploitation of women and the First Amendment.
The film already has been screened at a handful of the country's prestigious colleges and universities, part of an innovative marketing campaign on the part of production company Digital Playground to reach the "well-educated, big spending consumers of the future," according to company spokeswoman Adella Curry.
"Pirates II" cost some $10 million to make, according to Digital Playground. The two-and-a-half hour sexy send-up of Walt Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean" incorporates computer-generated special effects -- including animated skeleton pirates and six XXX-rated sex scenes.
With free high-speed Internet connections in most college dorms, students have easy access to free -- often pirated -- pornography. By providing free screening copies of the film to colleges, Digital Playground hopes to encourage students to buy their films, rather than download free pornography.
The average retail price for the "Pirates II" DVD is $65, but in some places it can sell for as much as $100, according to Curry.
Curry would not comment on how many copies of the DVD have been sold.
The company actively sought campuses to screen the film beginning last summer, after the on campus success of the film's prequel, "Pirates," in 2005. Some 3,000 students attended a screening of "Pirates" at Carnegie Mellon that year.
Realizing universities -- where sex and controversial ideas tend to circulate more openly than in the outside world -- were the perfect environment to launch a media blitz, the company reached out to 100 schools last summer to offer free copies of the film for screenings.
Some of the screenings have been small affairs, unbeknownst to school administrators. Several students screened a free copy in a dorm room at Southern Connecticut State University, according to a spokesman there.
Other schools, however, have shown the film in public theatres and classrooms, often incorporating an additional educational component to the screening, and sometimes inviting protests from conservative student groups.