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U lines up ‘Deep’ thinkers

Pic & scholars tackle First Amendment issues, obscenity laws

Taking the high road for its first NC-17 release, “Inside Deep Throat,” Universal has gone about assembling a cadre of cultural intelligentsia — from Alan Dershowitz to Arianna Huffington — to handle panel discussions after the film’s Gotham and Los Angeles screenings.

Pervy thrillseekers may see the events as blowhards talking blowjobs, without realizing that “Inside” tackles First Amendment issues and widespread obscenity laws that the pic’s producers see as still very relevant today.

Doc, by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, marks the first movie released by Universal with an NC-17 since “Henry & June” in 1990.

Pic, about the groundbreaking ’70s porn film, made a splash at Sundance, where producer Brian Grazer and Universal brass came out in full force to pump its profile.

The studio will open “Inside” in nine major markets Feb. 11 and then determine its ultimate release pattern based on the results.

U had to move the pic’s Feb. 3 L.A. screening from the ArcLight’s 400-seat theater to the Dome to pack in the 800 guests who wouldn’t take no for an answer when told the screening was full. The L.A. panel included Huffington, moderator Peter Bart, Dennis Prager, Richard Schickel and Lawrence O’Donnell Jr.

Gotham’s event at the Paris Theater on Feb. 7 was skedded to include moderator Elvis Mitchell, lawyers Dershowitz and Catherine MacKinnon, Judith Regan and Peter J. Boyer.

U’s promo campaign looks to stay away from more titillating marketing methods that a non-MPAA signatory might take, pushing the film’s seamier side and touting its taboos.

U will not be able, of course, to market the film through traditional news ads and network TV spots. The studio says it will comply with all restrictions placed on NC-17 pics, but would not elaborate on any alternative campaigning in the works.

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