Sexodus: Porn Industry Mulls a Future Outside L.A.

Pressure on porn companies to use condoms is pushing adult film production elsewhere

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Earlier this year, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation filed a complaint against California-based porn producer San Diego Boy Productions over what it believed were violations of the state’s workplace safety regulations. The offense? The porn stars weren’t wearing condoms.

AHF, an advocacy organization, is behind recent efforts to require porn performers to use condoms while filming to prevent the spread of HIV and was instrumental in persuading Los Angeles County to pass a measure last November imposing condom use on all adult film sets.

But when AHF complained to the state’s division of occupational safety and health about San Diego Boy Productions, they soon discovered that the material in question wasn’t shot in California. Rather, the producers outsourced filming to D&E Productions, a porn company in North Miami Beach, Florida. San Diego Boy Productions says that costs along with AHF’s condom campaign are slowly pushing them out of the state.

(MORE: Another U.S. Porn Performer Tests Positive for HIV)

Los Angeles has long been the country’s undisputed porn capital – with some in the business estimating that in its best years, L.A. generates 90% of all porn production. But industry experts say neighboring Ventura County along with Miami Beach, Las Vegas and Phoenix are slowly cornering more and more of the porn market. FilmL.A., which issues filming permits, says it has handed out just 24 for porn production this year. In a normal year, the county issues closer to 500.

As the industry deals with sporadic outbreaks of HIV infection, AHF has recently filed health complaints to Cal/OSHA against close to 20 different porn producers and production companies operating in California, including San Diego Boy Productions, and the group is trying to get a similar condom law passed by the California state legislature. In the meantime, adult film companies are suing L.A. County, trying to block implementation of the law, known as Measure B. Last month, a federal judge ruled the law was constitutional. Vivid Entertainment, one of L.A.’s leading porn producers, along with performers Kayden Kross and Logan Pierce, are requesting that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals accelerate the hearing of the judge’s recent decision.

“There will be a mass exodus if we lose this lawsuit,” says Diane Duke of the Free Speech Coalition, a trade group representing the adult film industry. “Porn companies will leave L.A. County. We’ll see if it happens out of state as well.”

Vivid founder Steven Hirsch says he’s already considering the possibility of locating his business elsewhere.

(MORE: Second L.A. Porn Star May Have Contracted HIV)

“We don’t believe the current law will stand up to judicial scrutiny,” says Hirsch. “However if the law is ultimately upheld we will have no choice but to leave L.A. As long as we feel the conditions continue to be safe, we can’t be forced to produce at a disadvantage.”

Asked whether the company has already been filming outside L.A., Hirsch says: “We do not disclose shoot locations, but we will not break the new L.A. County law.”

The porn industry is estimated to bring in about $5 billion a year, down from what was often estimated at $13 billion to $14 billion in 2005, largely due to the proliferation of free and pirated videos online. The industry still supports an estimated 10,000 production jobs like food service, camera operators and lighting, as well as the performers. Los Angeles likely corners anywhere from 60% to 75% of the market, but Miami and Vegas now take up a sizable portion of porn production, Duke says.

“The main reason to film outside of San Diego is cost,” says San Diego Boy Productions’ B.B. Bruce. “Plus now with AHF’s crusade to stop condom-less porn, looking elsewhere – outside California – will continue. All this does is push lots of money out of California that would normally be used to shoot in California.”

(MORE: Porn Again)

According to film offices in Ventura County, Miami, Miami Beach, Phoenix, Las Vegas and the state of Nevada, those regions have seen next to zero permit requests from adult film companies. The reason, however, likely has more to do with the fact that in these areas, permits are only required to film in public places like parks or city streets. Most porn is filmed in private residences, making it difficult to track exactly how many adult films are being made outside L.A. But unsanctioned film shoots have recently been reported in Ventura County and the Phoenix area.

“I don’t know of anyone who has relocated their entire headquarters yet,” says Dan Miller, managing editor of XBIZ, which covers the industry. “But we’re seeing many companies going outside of Los Angeles County.”

Over the last few weeks, the Free Speech Coalition has issued two moratoriums on porn filming after several performers revealed that they had contracted HIV. AHF announced that four actors have tested positive, in their view further bolstering their case for on-set condom use. But Duke of the Free Speech Coalition says that none of the actors contracted HIV while filming, largely because of the testing procedures already in place that routinely check for HIV along with numerous other sexually transmitted diseases. Duke says no performer has contracted HIV on set since 2004.

(MORE: Porn Film Industry Halted As Fourth HIV Case Emerges)

Still, the momentum seems to be working against the industry – and considering that movies can much more easily be shot outside the porn capitals thanks to inexpensive movie-making tools, L.A.’s reign as porn king may be coming to a close.

Duke says that the condom push is frustrating because she believes the industry has an effective testing system in place. She cites numbers in L.A. County showing 6,500 new transmissions of HIV between 2008 and 2011 – none of which occurred on-set.

“It’s just a non-issue,” she says. “But you’ve got stereotypes about the adult industry that are difficult to break.”

While some of the leading producers are threatening to leave L.A., others may simply adapt. Wicked Pictures and Immoral Productions have gone to all-condom shooting. Miller says both are doing well, and Immoral Productions’ sales are actually up.

“The conventional wisdom is that condoms can hamper sales of a finished product because it can compromise the fantasy that’s happening,” Miller says. “There’s a bit of a debate now about whether condoms really do affect your bottom line. But producers who really have a strong desire to stay in the game will adapt, either by abiding by the law or filming elsewhere.”

MORE: The New Talk: Not Just Sex—Porn, Too

10 comments
BellaBellucci
BellaBellucci

"FilmL.A., which issues filming permits, says it has handed out just 24 for porn production this year. In a normal year, the county issues closer to 500."

For the folks at home, that's called 'going under the radar.' There isn't less porn - only fewer permits.

raybbaby89
raybbaby89

If AHF actually cared about stopping HIV transmission, they would be cheering the industry, and the industry's testing protocol. How many thousands of scenes have been shot since 2004, without an on-set transmission occurring?  AHF's agenda is about something else, and why no one investigates them is beyond me. How much money did this "non-profit" make last year? If they win, it will force porn production back into the dark, where there will be no way for producers or performers to protect themselves or others. This is about destroying the porn industry, and jeopardizing the health of any of the fully grown, consenting adults who decide to participate. Why doesn't AHF get as scrutinized as the porn industry?

memphisrusty
memphisrusty

New "faces". Watching the same girls f**k over and over gets tedious.

Piacevole
Piacevole

Clearly, there's something I don't understand about the porn "industry."  So many porn films have been made, and so many stills, that surely the world's requirements for the next century or so have already been met.   It's not as if there is an infinite number of combinations for sexual contact.  It's certainly not as if there's another story that needs telling, because storyline is not exactly the sine qua non of porn.  

Just think "recycle."  There's plenty and to spare.

Piacevole
Piacevole

@raybbaby89 @Piacevole Well. . . how much is "L.A. Confidential" like "2001: A Space Odyssey?"  How close is "Gone with the Wind" to "Goodfellas?"  How about "The Godfather" and "The Sound of Music?"  This could go on for quite a while, trying to illustrate the lack of interchangeability in the mainline - or indie - movie industry.

As for music, from Bach to the Rolling Stones and from Mozart to hip-hop, whatever else can be said, they don't have a whole lot of similarity.  Never mind the twelve-tone stuff.  Or music from, say, India or Ceylon.  The instrumentation is different, sometimes the entire point of view is different.  Some of what one culture instantly recognizes as music is just noise to another.

But basically, if you've seen one porn movie, you've seen 'em all.  There are only so many ways to insert protrusion "A" into orifice "B" "C" or "D"  The combinations are far from endless.  The issue of whether to have a close-up shot or a framed distance shot seems not to apply.  The scripts are minimal, and not quite up to Shakespearean standards.  What they're about is basically determined by the finite nature of sex.  

Even the frills and furbelows don't make all that much difference.  A Brazilian wax or whether a male participant is circumsized or not isn't much of a difference, either.  Same-old, same-old.



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