Here in Miami, the city-wide nightmare that was Rock of Ages, the movie, is over. The film crews long ago packed up and left the facsimile of the Sunset Strip they built downtown. The movie opened with a South Beach premiere, and pretty much tanked. Critics -- including our own -- bashed it. The stage version is coming to the Arsht Center next month, potentially triggering traumatic flashbacks to that borderline-offensive kiss between Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand in more sensitive victims of the film. But otherwise, Rock of Ages is in Miami's past.
Fort Lauderdale, on the other hand, is not so lucky.
Rock of Ages also filmed there last year, in the Himmarshee Village area, posting signs prohibiting photography and citing a city ordinance that didn't actually have anything to do with photography. The Society of Professional Journalists, led by attorney and South Florida Gay News publisher Norm Kent, filed a lawsuit against the city and its police force, claiming that the enforcement of the ban is unconstitutional.
The city moved to dismiss, putting the suit into a state of limbo -- until now. SFGN reports that a judge has denied the motion to dismiss, green-lighting a trial.
Judge Michelle Tobin Singer ruled that "First Amendment protections represented a significant public interest which have to be protected, and the claims have a right to be heard," the site reports.
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n June 2011, a city spokesperson told the Sun-Sentinel that the rule was "a matter of public safety." Off-duty Fort Lauderdale police officers were hired to guard the premises and enforce the rule. But other groups, including the National Press Photographers Association, said the rule violates the right of free speech.
Now that a trial is pending, litigators will take depositions of the officers hired to enforce the rule. Is it a lot of fuss over some photos of a low-quality movie set? Perhaps. But Kent's partner Russell Cormican told SFGN it's more about ensuring the city's police officers act responsibly. "Instead of being guardians of the public interest, the Fort Lauderdale police allowed themselves to become tools of a movie studio."