On Location: Porn film studio among top 10 busiest sites in L.A. for production
Still, for better or worse, the adult entertainment business remains alive and well in the San Fernando Valley, where thousands of films are shot every year in warehouses and private homes.
One of the 10 busiest sites for on-location filming in Los Angeles last year was a two-story industrial building in Chatsworth operated by Penthouse Studios, a spinoff of the adult magazine.
The 35,000-square-foot studio was used for 17 untitled projects and generated 101 production days in 2010. That's nearly one-third the total production days hosted last year at Griffith Park, the most popular spot for on-location filming, according to the survey from FilmL.A. Inc., the nonprofit group that handles film permits for the city and much of the county.
"It's a good spot because they have three big hangars over there and they are constantly changing their sets,'' said a location manager who has frequently worked at the studio and who also asked not be named because of the potential effect on his career working on mainstream films.
Most of the films shot in Chatsworth were produced by Penthouse-owned studio Video Bliss. Kelly Holland, president of Penthouse Studios, declined to comment, saying the company is in a quiet period pending a planned stock offering by its owner, FriendFinder Networks, a Boca Raton, Fla., company that operates various adult social networking and dating sites.
About 6,000 adult films are shot each year, with the majority of them in the San Fernando Valley, according to industry estimates. The films mostly fly under the radar, but occasionally they stir controversy. In 2006, residents in an Encino neighborhood bitterly complained to city officials about an onslaught of porn filming in their enclave, including one during the Easter holiday.
Adult entertainment boomed after the advent of home video in the 1980s. But declining DVD sales and the availability of free porn on the Internet has battered the local industry: The number of major porn producers in L.A. has fallen to about 30, down from approximately 50 three years ago, said Alec Helmy, president and publisher of XBiz, which bills itself as the Variety of the adult entertainment industry.
“The industry is struggling in a big way, but as far as the local market goes, we still get tons of DVDs dropped off at our office every day,” Helmy said.
Porn production accounts for less than 5% of all film permits, but FilmL.A. does not track the industry's overall activity. A decade ago, local economists estimated that the porn industry in the San Fernando Valley generated 10,000 to 20,000 jobs annually and had $4 billion in annual sales. More recent figures, however, aren't available, perhaps because civic leaders aren't eager to tout an industry many in the public consider unsavory.
"A lot of people are uncomfortable with the subject, even though it appears they have lots of customers,” said Nancy Sidhu, chief economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.
-- Richard Verrier
Photo: Industrial building in Chatsworth operated by Penthouse-owned studio Video Bliss. The studio was the ninth busiest site for on-location filming in 2010. Credit: Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times.
READ MORE ON LOCATION COVERAGE: