Porn industry seeks $5 billion federal bailout
LA DAILY NEWS
Thursday, January 08, 2009
LOS ANGELES — In an announcement that launched a thousand unprintable puns, adult-entertainment moguls Larry Flynt and Joe Francis said Wednesday that they are asking Washington for a $5 billion federal bailout, claiming that the porn business is suffering from the soft economy.
Francis insisted in a phone interview that this is no joke or publicity stunt, though his tone suggested otherwise.
“The government’s handing out money to the auto industry,” Francis, producer of the “Girls Gone Wild” video series, said on the phone from his Santa Monica office. “Why shouldn’t it hand some to an industry the nation could not live without?”
The request, Francis said, was being made in a letter to Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass, and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. The $5 billion figure, he said, reflects the decline in U.S. adult-entertainment- industry revenue from $18 billion three years ago.
If porn producers are feeling the effects of what one wire service called “the sagging economy,” the pain might be felt most acutely in the San Fernando Valley. In 2007, revenue from more than 200 Valley-based adult-content companies was estimated at $1 billion.
One adult-film star from the Los Angeles area said she is feeling the pinch.
The actress who performs as Jenna Presley said her Web site has seen a 20 percent decline in customers, about 1,000 of whom pay $19.99 a month to watch the 22-year-old perform online.
Presley said the downturn has forced her to cut overhead.
“I said, ‘I’ve got to stop paying guys and girls to perform with, and I’ve got to find (other Web site proprietors) to do a content exchange with,’ ” Presley said matter-of-factly.
Instead of paying co-stars, she is posting their videos on her site and they’re posting her content on theirs.
“I haven’t had any complaints,” Presley said.
Other performers, Presley said, have faced pay cuts as video companies take the uncharacteristic step of tightening their belts.
“I know companies are reducing their rates,” Presley said. “Instead of paying a girl $2,000 for a boy-girl (scene), now they’re trying to pay $1,200.”
Presley said she has refused to work for less and so far has not lost business.
“I stand up for myself,” she said. “A lot of girls, the business is so slow, they’re happy just to find work (at any price).”
Despite all that, Presley said she considers the bailout bid by Francis and Hustler chief Flynt “a little crazy” and thinks companies need to cut unnecessary expenses. She said the porn industry, like the auto industry, is to blame for failing to change with the times.
“I’m not taking this bailout request seriously,” Presley said. “I love Larry. He’s a great guy. But he doesn’t need $5 billion.”
Her reaction echoed those of a San Fernando Valley congressman and the head of a Valley business group.
“I regret that two porn-industry executives have used the current economic crisis to launch an obvious publicity stunt,” said Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks. “As Americans face tough economic times, we need a serious discussion of the issues.”
Bruce Ackerman, president and CEO of the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley, said: “I don’t think it’s a reasonable request — and I would say that of any of the industry groups (seeking bailouts).
“I don’t think you can laugh any of these requests off. I sympathize with any industry that needs help,” Ackerman said, noting that the adult-entertainment industry employs thousands of people in the Valley. “But is it something the taxpayer should be burdened with?”
Flynt’s and Francis’ announcement coincides with the start today of the four-day Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas. They hope to find support for the bailout bid from other industry leaders.
“People are too depressed to be sexually active,” Flynt said in a news release. “This is very unhealthy as a nation. Americans can do without cars and such, but they cannot do without sex.”
Adult DVD sales and rentals have decreased by 22 percent in the past year, the news release claimed, as viewers seek free porn online.
Flynt and Francis will have some convincing to do even in Las Vegas, judging by the reaction of Steven Hirsch, founder and co-chairman of L.A.-based Vivid Entertainment Group, the 25-year-old company that bills itself as the world’s leading adult-film producer.
“To think we’re going to go to Washington and get a bailout is a little unrealistic,” said Hirsch, who said he heard about the Flynt-Francis ploy in the media. “This is not the time to make sweeping statements. This is the time to buckle down and take the steps we need to save our industry.
“This industry is not immune from (the bad economy). People are spending less money, period.”
Hirsch said he thinks Flynt and Francis are “just poking fun at all the industries getting bailouts.”
Hirsch said Vivid isn’t suffering as badly as smaller rivals because its prominent brand name gives the company “a leg up.”
He declined to get specific about Vivid’s revenue.