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Difficult times out there for those in the porn industry

August 10, 2009 |  8:49 am

Savannah For years, Hollywood has looked to a neighbor in the north to lead the way in new technology.

Not too far north, just up in the San Fernando Valley, where the porn business has been an early adopter of new technologies such as DVD and Internet video, leading the way in markets where "traditional" entertainment eventually followed.

Today, instead of leading the way up, porn appears to be leading the way down.

As an article in today's Times explains, the adult entertainment industry is in the midst of a major funk and it's not just about the recession. DVDs, which for years fueled its growth, is in steep decline. And massive amounts of free content on the Internet via dozens of YouTube clones dedicated to porn have sprung up.

Hollywood is familiar with those problems, of course. But not to the extent that those in the porn business are. Though there are is no reliable data or analyses of the industry, insiders estimate that revenue at most adult entertainment production and distribution companies has fallen 30% to 50% over the past few years.

That's having a real impact on the bottom line for many of the industry's performers and crew. Savannah Stern (pictured), a veteran actress, has seen her income fall by about two-thirds since last year as work opportunities have dried up and those remaining pay less. Angie Babooian, a make-up artist, has had to cut her hourly rate by one-third and finds that many performers are offering to do make-up themselves just to get a job.

There are some differences, of course. Hollywood might not be quite as susceptible to free Internet content since consumers typically want to see movies in high quality. That's not always true in porn, where "good enough" is often, well, good enough.

"Unfortunately for adult," observed Bill Asher, co-chairman of industry giant Vivid Entertainment, "people will generally accept a bad substitute if it's free."

As broadband connections and video encoding continue to improve, however, those substitutes keep getting better and better. And there's no reason to believe that the decline in DVD sales will halt anytime soon.

Porn may once again be leading the entertainment industry, but this time it's not anywhere that Hollywood wants to go.

For more on how free Internet content is affecting the porn business and the people who work in it, read the article in today's Times.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Adult actress Savannah Stern with the Mercedes she is giving up to cut back on expenses. Credit: Ann Johansson / For The Times

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